Hypersomnia Vs Narcolepsy (2021)

Updated May, 2021
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While hypersomnia and narcolepsy both cause excessive daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy is a rarer and more serious condition. Hypersomniacs solely suffer from fatigue-related symptoms, while narcolepsy includes unexpected sleep attacks, cataplexy, and difficulty falling asleep.

What is hypersomnia?

Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel drowsy during the day and have an unusually difficult time waking up after sleeping. About 4%-6% of the general population have hypersomnia; it inhibits your academic, work, and social life if left untreated.  

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy impacts your brain's ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Narcolepsy makes you feel drowsy during the daytime, consequently affecting how well you can perform your daily activities. It can also cause you to wake up frequently at night, leading to poor quality of sleep. Narcolepsy affects between 135,000 to 200,000 US citizens, and (like hypersomnia) inhibits your academic, work, and social life if left untreated.

What are the key differences between the two?

Because narcolepsy and hypersomnia share similar symptoms, they're often mistaken for each other. Upon a closer look, it's evident that narcolepsy is a rarer and more serious condition than hypersomnia.

  • Narcolepsy involves REM changes, hypocretin deficiency, mild to severe sleep disruption, and cataplexy, while hypersomnia doesn't.
  • Hypersomniacs have difficulty waking after sleeping bouts, while sleeping bouts refresh narcoleptics.
  • Hypersomniacs sleep for prolonged periods of time, while narcoleptics don't.
  • While hypersomniacs feel tired all the time, narcoleptic sleep attacks happen without warning.

How can I treat hypersomnia?

You can't get rid of hypersomnia, but there are medications and lifestyle changes that help manage symptoms.

  • Medications. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants, stimulants, and sedatives to ease symptoms.
  • CPAP. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, delivers steady airflow to your nostrils which allowing airways to stay open while you sleep. CPAP promotes quality sleep.
  • Keep a sleep diary and create a sleep schedule to help track and understand your sleep patterns.
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, or caffeine before bed because these substances are stimulants and may keep you up.
  • Exercise regularly to promote alertness and healthy sleep patterns.
  • Relax before bed. Take care of yourself by having a hot shower or reading can help you wind down before bedtime.

How can I treat narcolepsy?

There are no treatments that cure narcolepsy, but there are medications you can take and lifestyle changes you can make to ease narcolepsy symptoms. Even though hypersomnia and narcolepsy are different, they share similar treatment methods.

  • Medications. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants, stimulants, and sedatives to ease symptoms.
  • Take short naps. Take regular, scheduled naps when you usually feel sleepiest.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to help regulate your sleep pattern.
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine before bed. These substances are stimulants, and may prevent you from regulating your sleep.
  • Exercise daily. This can improve your quality of sleep.
  • Relax before bed. Take care of yourself by having a hot shower, drawing a bath, or reading can help wind down before bedtime. Make sure your bedroom is cool and comfortable.

Will a new mattress help with hypersomnia and narcolepsy?

If you have hypersomnia or narcolepsy, getting quality sleep can ease your symptoms during the day. A quality mattress is key to quality sleep. Is your mattress years old, with divots where you sleep each night? This is a common sign that you need a new mattress to improve your sleep health. Investing in the right mattress tailored to your sleep needs helps you get on the right track towards a better night's sleep.

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