What is idiopathic hypersomnia?
Idiopathic hypersomnia is a rare sleep disorder that affects many aspects of a person’s life, characteristically by excessive daytime sleepiness. However, it is different from narcolepsy because it occurs in the absence of other medical problems or sleep disruptions and is a primary, not secondary, hypersomnia. The condition is thought to be a neurological disorder.
What causes idiopathic hypersomnia?
The cause of idiopathic hypersomnia is unknown, unlike narcolepsy and cataplexy. Research is currently being done to establish the specific neurological cause behind the condition, but initial findings may point to destruction of noradrenergic neurons or an abnormal hypersensitivity to the brain chemicals responsible for sedation.
What are the symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia?
The following are the common signs and symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia, which usually develop during the teen or young adult years:
- Chronic excessive daytime sleepiness
- Long naps and sleep drunkenness once waking
- Immediate and random need for sleep
- Loss of appetitie
How is idiopathic hypersomnia diagnosed?
Historically, idiopathic hypersomnia has been very difficult to diagnose at an early stage, partly because of the low level of public awareness surrounding the condition and the stigma around those who suffer from it. In addition to these challenges, idiopathic hypersomnia lacks a clearly defining clinical feature, so a series of sleep scales and tests are used to ultimately reach the diagnosis.
What are the available treatments for idiopathic hypersomnia?
Treatments for idiopathic hypersomnia are generally focused at treating the excessive daytime sleepiness that is characteristic of the condition, rather than the sleep duration problems or sleep drunkenness that occurs. This generally involves using off-label medications for narcolepsy, such as wakefulness-promoting agents (modafinil) or traditional psychostimulants (amphetamines) because there are currently no FDA-approved treatments specifically for idiopathic hypersomnia.
If these therapies are ineffective, there are some emerging options that could help, such as flumazenil and sodium oxybate.