Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH)

Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) brings daily challenges and frustrations. You may struggle with activities that others take for granted, such as working, driving, and watching television. Even spending time with family and friends can be difficult when you’re constantly fighting to stay awake.


What is IH?

IH can be a debilitating condition characterized by excessive sleepiness even after a full night’s rest or after daytime naps. If you have IH, you may experience an uncontrollable need to sleep at any time, regardless of the amount of sleep you have gotten recently. Symptoms of IH often begin during adolescence and young adulthood, typically developing over a period of weeks or months. There is no known cause of this chronic condition.

What are the symptoms of IH?

Common signs and symptoms of IH include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (an inability to remain awake and alert during the daytime / unintended lapses into drowsiness or sleep)
  • Long periods of sleep
  • Difficulty waking up from nightly sleep or daytime naps
  • Daytime naps that are not refreshing
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day

How is IH diagnosed?

If you experience symptoms of IH, you should talk to your doctor about possibly having a sleep test. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for evaluation and diagnosis. Your doctor or a sleep specialist will likely discuss your symptoms with you and ask about your medical history and any family history of sleep-related issues. You may also be asked to:

  • Rate your sleepiness in several categories using a numeric scale
  • Keep a sleep diary for a short period of time
  • Take an overnight sleep test, generally conducted in a sleep center, to monitor your body and brain while you sleep followed by a daytime sleep test (multiple sleep latency test or MSLT) that monitors how sleepy you are during a series of five naps every two hours following awakening from the overnight sleep test

How is IH treated?

With no known cause, IH treatment often focuses on trying to relieve symptoms, particularly daytime sleepiness. Stimulant medication may be prescribed to help you stay awake during the day. Non-medical approaches, such as lifestyle changes, are far less likely to help.

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