Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH)

What is Idiopathic Hypersomnia?

Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) is a sleep disorder. If you suffer from hypersomnia, you may sleep for a normal amount of time at night, but also feel tired during the day. Even when you get 10 or more hours of sleep at night, you may continue to feel sleepy when you’re awake.

Doctors believe that IH sufferers produce too much of a molecule that impacts GABA, a hormone your body produces to promote sleep. The molecule interferes with how GABA works in the body and enhances its effects, leading to constant desire for sleep. What causes your body to overproduce the molecule is unknown.

What are the Symptoms of Idiopathic Hypersomnia?

If you have idiopathic hypersomnia (IH), you may sleep for an excessive time period at least 10 hours each day. When you’re awake, you may be groggy and have trouble functioning. Waking up is also difficult, and sufferers may not respond to alarm clocks.

People who have IH often have low levels of histamine in the brain, but there are no ways to specifically identify the condition. IH may have some connection to anxiety and depression, so if you suffer from those conditions, you may also have sleep issues.

How is Idiopathic Hypersomnia Treated?

Many different issues may cause someone to suffer from idiopathic hypersomnia, treatment must be individually tailored to your needs. Often, treatment begins with a polysomnogram, or night-time sleep test, to see if there are easily correctable issues.

You may use light therapy or melatonin to reset your sleep cycles. Improved diet and exercise can help, as can eliminating alcohol and caffeine.

Your doctor may prescribe a stimulant that can help you feel less sleepy during the day. Some patients also benefit from antidepressant medications. Be sure to follow your medical professionals’ instructions so you do not become dependent on a stimulant drug.

In some cases, sleep apnea can mimic or contribute to IH symptoms. If this is the case, you may benefit from use of a CPAP machine to help you breathe properly while you sleep.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
September 01, 2017