Oversleeping – what’s the problem?

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In this post we examine the medical condition known as 'Hypersomnia' or oversleeping. Hypersomnia is a new field of research but there have already been some fascinating discoveries. Read on to find out more.

Sleeping Beauty copy

Hypersomnia is defined as a period of three months or more where there is prolonged night time sleep as well as Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS).  It is hypothesised that primary hypersomnia (also known as true hypersomnia) occurs due to neurological abnormality that disrupts the sleep-wake cycle. Narcolepsy is the most well known of the true hypersomnias. Narcolepsy is a rare disorder roughly translated as 'attack of numbness' where sufferers fall into REM sleep at random intervals and may even injure themselves as a result. Sleeping Beauty Syndrome (AKA Klein -Levin Syndrome) is less well known but is a recurrent condition that results in crippling periods of excessive sleeping and overeating. Sufferers must be cared for and are unable to work or attend school. When well, however, they live full lives.

Secondary hypersomnias are often less severe and more easily treated. The list is long and so beware attempting to self-diagnose. Most are easily diagnosed and treatable so get to your doctor if concerned.

  • Hypothyroidism - insuffcient production of thyroid hormone which results in a decrease in baseline metabolic rate. Sufferers have a slow heart rate, feel cold, sleepy and have a loss of appetite.
  • Iron deficiency - low levels of iron or haemoglobin in the blood results in an inability to transport oxygen efficiently. Sufferers describe a feeling of immense fatigue as well as other symptoms such as dizziness, pallor (paleness), hair loss and weakness.
  • Psychiatric disorders such as clinical depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar mood disorder - irregular levels of dopamine can cause irregularity in mood and sleep.
  • Obesity - Sufferers have a body mass index above 25 points. There is a strong link between obesity and sleep apnea which is linked to disrupted and therefore poor quality night time sleep and therefore EDS is common.
  • Epilepsy - After experiencing seizures, sufferers experience prolonged periods of sleepiness and confusion. Some anti-epileptic drugs can also cause drowsiness.
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Multiple sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome - it is unknown why but sufferers immune systems attack their own bodies rather than foreign invaders eg. viruses. This results in weakness, pain and often sleep disruption.




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