Constantly tired? Are you suffering from hypersomnia?

Stress and sleep

Owen Wiseman

19 November 2019

When does regular daytime fatigue become potentially pathologic?

A characteristic that differentiates general tiredness from hypersomnia is the ability to feel refreshed following a nap. Those with hypersomnia may take multiple naps throughout the day and continue to feel as though nothing changed from before the nap.

How does one diagnose hypersomnia?

Your primary care provider will have you complete a series of measures in order to assess the cause of the tiredness. This is important as like many conditions, hypersomnia is categorized as primary or secondary.

  • Primary hypersomnia means excess tiredness is the only symptom and the individual has no other medical conditions that could explain the sensation.
  • Secondary hypersomnia means the tiredness is the result of some other condition as explored in the next section.

A sleep diary will be completed by the individual and record patterns of sleep such as how many times you woke throughout your sleep, when you fell asleep, how long it took you to nod off, when you got up, and how long it took you to fall back asleep after waking prematurely. Your primary care provider may use the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to assess the level of your chance of dozing during general daily activities such as watching TV or being a passenger in a vehicle. Finally, if the condition is severe enough, you may be referred to a sleep clinic for a polysomnogram that measures physical aspects of sleep including brain activity and breathing patterns.

What are the causes of this excessive tiredness?

The condition that causes hypersomnia in many individuals is known as Sleep Apnea, a condition affecting 6.4% of Canadians according to the Canadian Health Measures Survey. This number has more than doubled from the 2009 survey, and whether this can strictly be attributed to an aging population is unclear. Sleep apnea is characterized by a temporary halt in the individual's breathing which can induce a stress response in the body and either wake the person, or bring them out of their normally restorative sleep. A single episode of this may not have a serious impact, but multiple throughout the night can quickly cause sleep deprivation and subsequent hypersomnia. The condition also impacts males almost twice as much as it does females.

Other causes include certain medications or frequent drug and/or alcohol use.

Are there any recommendations that don't require taking something to help me sleep?

Absolutely! You may have heard of the term sleep hygiene before, which involves cleaning up your night time routines.

  • Get those devices out of the bedroom. The wavelength of light that cell phones, tablets, and computers use is a similar wavelength to that found in the daytime. This wavelength suppresses the production of melatonin in the pineal gland of the brain, a hormone that heavily influences the sleep and wake cycle. If having devices in the bedroom is a necessity, then make use of the many technological features that shift the light of the devices from blue to orange.
  • Restrict the bedroom to sleep and intimacy. When you conduct other activities in the bedroom such as answering those "urgent" emails the moment you open your eyes to spending hours trying to defeat the last boss from the comfort of your sheets, it conditions your brain to be active in a place you need to rest.
  • Click here for techniques which have been proven to help many of those suffering from sleep problems.

Are there any other ways to increase the time spent in quality sleep?

  • Add some lavender into your life. Studies have shown that diffusing lavender essential oil or adding a few drops to your pillow can increase the time spent in deeper sleep, reduces blood pressure and heart rate and increases feelings of calm and relaxation. In addition, if you are someone who suffers from headaches, inhaling the scent of lavender has been shown to help reduce the severity of the episode. This could potentially have the added benefit of benefitting headaches exacerbated by sleep deprivation.
  • Deep Sleep is a product that consists of two herbs indicated in sleep, Valeriana officinalis and Humulus lupulus and most importantly, is non-addictive unlike many pharmaceutical sleep aids. Additionally, these herbs have the ability to calm the stress response and reduce feelings of anxiety. If you're feeling stressed or anxious, finding your way into a deep and restful sleep can be difficult. In a clinical study of Deep Sleep, 44 patients with insomnia experienced deeper levels of sleep and slept an additional 38 minutes compared to those given a placebo. The wonderful part is that it's easy to add to your bedtime routine in just a small amount of water.Have a discussion with your primary care provider if you are currently taking multiple sedatives as they have the potential to interact with one another.



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