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Quick GuideSleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More
Introduction to Hypersomnia
Hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness, is a condition in which a person has trouble staying awake during the day. People who have hypersomnia can fall asleep at any time; for instance, at work or while they are driving. They may also have other sleep-related problems, including a lack of energy and trouble thinking clearly.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 40% of people have some symptoms of hypersomnia from time to time.
What Causes Hypersomnia?
There are several potential causes of hypersomnia, including:
- The sleep disorders narcolepsy (daytime sleepiness) and sleep apnea
(interruptions of breathing during sleep)
- Not getting enough sleep at night (sleep deprivation)
- Being overweight
- Drug or
- A head injury or a neurological disease, such as multiple sclerosis
- Prescription drugs, such as tranquilizers
- Genetics (having a relative with hypersomnia)
How Is Hypersomnia Diagnosed?
If you consistently feel drowsy during the day, talk to your doctor. In making a diagnosis of hypersomnia, your doctor will ask you about your sleeping habits, how much sleep you get at night, if you wake up at night, and whether you fall asleep during the day. Your doctor will also want to know if you are having any emotional problems or are taking any medications that may be interfering with your sleep.
Your doctor may also order some tests, including blood tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, and a sleep test called polysomnography. In some cases, an additional electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the electrical activity of the brain, is needed.
How Is Hypersomnia Treated?
If you are diagnosed with hypersomnia, your doctor can prescribe various drugs to treat it, including stimulants, antidepressants, as well as several newer medications (for example, Provigil and Xyrem).
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. With CPAP, you wear a mask over your nose while you are sleeping. A machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nostrils is hooked up to the mask. The pressure from air flowing into the nostrils helps keep the airways open.
If you are taking a medication that causes drowsiness, ask your doctor about changing the medication to one that is less likely to make you sleepy. You may also want to go to bed earlier to try to get more sleep at night, and eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
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CAT ScanA CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
EEG - ElectroencephalogramAn Electroencephalogram also called an EEG, is a test that can help diagnose epilepsy. The electrical signals of the brain are recorded during an EEG. This electrical activity is detected by electrodes or sensors, placed on the patient's scalp and transmitted to a polygraph that records the activity. Electrical signals produced by the brain neurons are picked up by the electrodes and transmitted to a polygraph, where they produce separate graphs on moving paper using an ink writing pen or on a computer screen.
MRI ScanMRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a radiology technique which uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures. MRI scanning is painless and does not involve X-ray radiation. Patients with heart pacemakers, metal implants, or metal chips or clips in or around the eyes cannot be scanned with MRI because of the effect of the magnet.
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A number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best. Sleep needs vary from individual to individual and change throughout your life. The National Institutes of Health recommend about 7-9 hours of sleep each night for older, school-aged children, teens, and most average adults; 10-12 for preschool-aged children; and 16-18 hours for newborns. There are two stages of sleep; 1) REM sleep (rapid-eye movement), and 2) NREM sleep (non-rapid-eye movement). The side effects of lack of sleep or insomnia include:
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Concentration or memory problems
Lack of sleep and insomnia can be caused by medical conditions or diseases, medications, stress, or pain. The treatment for lack of sleep and insomnia depends upon the cause.
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Sleep ApneaSleep apnea is defined as a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. The three types of sleep apnea are central apnea, obstructive apnea (OSA), and a mixture of central and obstructive apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a failure of the brain to activate the muscles of breathing during sleep. OSA is caused by the collapse of the airway during sleep. OSA is diagnosed and evaluated through patient history, physical examination and polysomnography. There are many complications related to obstructive sleep apnea. Treatments are surgical and non-surgical.
Sleep DisordersLearn about the different types of sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Explore the symptoms, causes, tests and treatments of sleep disorders.
Take the Sleep QuizTake our Sleeping Quiz to learn which sleep disorders, causes, and symptoms rule the night. Trouble falling or staying asleep? Find out which medical treatments fight sleep deprivation, apnea, insomnia, and more!