There are a few sleep disorders that share similar symptoms, as well as have the exact causes and preventions. A lot of this is to do with your general sleep hygiene. However, some conditions are strictly medical or have an underlying or unknown cause, which can be frustrating.
However, getting to the bottom of which condition you are dealing with is the primary problem, and sometimes it can be hard to know what your symptoms are signs of.
Now, while I am not here to diagnose you, I can tell you some differences between hypersomnia and narcolepsy, which may help you further understand what you’re living with and how to face it.
I can also give you a few hints and tips that may help reduce symptoms of hypersomnia and narcolepsy, which are straightforward techniques you can introduce to your daily routine.
It’s important to remember that if your condition affects your day-to-day activities or you’re concerned in any way, you should seek advice from a medical professional who can look at your case personally and diagnose it.
What is Hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is a sleep condition that causes excessive sleepiness despite having plenty of sleep during the night. It’s a condition that can cause immense strain on your day-to-day life and can even become dangerous for anyone who has to drive, or operate machinery, for example.
Sometimes people confuse other sleep disorders, such as insomnia and narcolepsy, with Hypersomnia. When in fact, it’s an entirely different condition of its own. There are also different types of hypersomnia, divided into two categories, primary and secondary.
Secondary hypersomnia is caused by another health condition impacting your sleep quality, and it can also be linked to bad habits such as alcohol consumption or your diet.
Primary hypersomnia, however, is incurable. Unfortunately, the cause and reason for primary hypersomnia are still unknown. This means that no matter how much you practice good sleep hygiene and how good your sleep-wake pattern is, you still find it challenging to stay awake during the day.
There are many symptoms of hypersomnia which often get confused with narcolepsy or other sleep disorders, and a lot of the time, the signs and symptoms of hypersomnia can relate to another health condition. This is why speaking to a sleep specialist is crucial to get the correct diagnosis.
Here are a few noteworthy symptoms to look for that may show hypersomnia.
- Excessive sleepiness during the day despite having a whole night’s sleep
- Waking up feeling disorientated
- Poor coordination
- Difficulty waking up
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Taking naps for hours and not feeling refreshed
How is Hypersomnia Different From Narcolepsy?
Hypersomnia and narcolepsy are two sleep disorders that are both recognized by one symptom, falling asleep during the day. However, they are very different in terms of symptoms and definitions. They are also both pretty complex when it comes to getting a diagnosis.
- Hypersomnia: You constantly need to sleep, take long naps that are not refreshing, and feel excessively tired despite sleeping well the night before.
- Narcolepsy: Feeling extremely tired and often accompanied by other symptoms such as muscle weakness, sleep paralysis, and total loss of muscle control.
- Hypersomnia: Excessive napping, feeling tired after a good sleep.
- Narcolepsy: Hallucinations, insomnia, sleep paralysis, disturbed sleep, cataplexy.
- Hypersomnia: There is no known cause yet for primary hypersomnia.
- Narcolepsy: Genetics, lack of hypocretin in the brain.
How to Reduce Symptoms of Hypersomnia?
Just like narcolepsy, if you have idiopathic hypersomnia, there isn’t anything you can do to completely cure your condition, which I know can feel disheartening. However, you could try a few things that may help you live with the condition and even slightly reduce the symptoms.
After getting a diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe you medications such as modafinil or methylphenidate. Still, some have proven successful if you want to try more natural remedies and techniques.
Below is a list of some simple changes you can adapt to your lifestyle that can improve your sleep quality and reduce the symptoms of hypersomnia.
- Reduce Stress – If you have a stressful job or lifestyle, it can negatively impact your sleep. Try to do something which will make you feel relaxed before bed, and try to leave any worries out of the bedroom.
- Drink Plenty of Water – Water is known to detoxify the body and keeps you well nourished. Both of these things play vital parts in your sleep quality.
- Exercise – When you exercise, the body releases a hormone called serotonin, which improves sleep quality.
- Diet – Introducing foods high in protein, and vitamins, such as clean meat, fruit, and vegetables, will improve the regulation of your circadian rhythm.
- Avoid Stimulants – Alcohol, drugs, and even some medications are not advisable before bed. This is because they stimulate the brain, making it difficult to switch off and fall asleep.
Some specific food options can help to improve the symptoms of hypersomnia.
- Aloe Vera – Often used to treat the symptoms of insomnia and depression, aloe vera can also help people suffering from hypersomnia. It can help increase alertness during the day and improve sleep quality at night.
- Melatonin-Rich Foods – Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that plays the role of regulating the circadian rhythm. Eating foods such as tomatoes, cherries, oats, and bananas, amongst others, can positively impact your sleep.
- Legumes – Foods such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas are very high in protein and nutrients, which will help to combat any sleep disorders.
Vitamins play a vital role in our sleep quality, as well as our general health and well-being. They help neurotransmitters to activate and regulate how the nervous system functions.
- Vitamin A, B, and E – People deficient in these vitamins are more likely to encounter sleep problems. You can get these by adding more fruit and vegetables to your diet.
- Molybdenum, Selenium, and Zinc – These minerals are essential when it comes to how your body functions. Studies have shown that people suffering from hypersomnia who introduced them to their diets had a noticeable improvement in their symptoms.
A Final Analysis
So, we have established the difference between narcolepsy and hypersomnia. After reading this guide, you will be more comfortable recognizing the differences between the two sleep conditions.
While we have established that narcolepsy can be down to an imbalance in the brain or even caused by genetics, there is, in fact, no known cause for hypersomnia.
Although finding out that you have a condition with no cause or cure can be frustrating, I hope the information I have provided has put your mind at ease and offered you a few solutions that may help reduce your symptoms.