(Updated at Mar 24 / 2023)
Do people with excessive sleepiness have a shorter lifespan?
Hypersomnia is a condition when an individual suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness or sleeps for more than nine hours a night and still feels like not having enough night sleep.
There are various reasons for this condition:
– Prolonged and regular sleep deprivation;
– Night work shifts;
– Physical exhaustion;
– Mental overload;
– Emotional shocks and stressful situations;
– Use of medications and potent drugs (neuroleptics, antihistamines, sugar suppressants, tranquilizers);
– Cranial injuries (concussions, bruises);
– Tumors, cysts of the brain, intracerebral hematomas;
– History of infectious diseases (meningitis, encephalitis, brain syphilis);
– Apnea and concomitant hypoxia of brain tissue;
– Mental disorders;
– Endocrine disorders.
The most severe type of hypersomnia is narcolepsy. It is a congenital disorder of sleep-wake cycle regulation characterized by excessive daytime sluggishness and irresistible episodes of daytime drowsiness, restless sleep and a feeling of sleeplessness, hallucinations when falling asleep or awakening, cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone, usually arising on the background of strong emotional experiences); cataplexy of awakening. In the presence of the disorder an early onset of the REM sleep phase (immediately after falling asleep or during the first minutes of sleep), a decrease in the severity of d-sleep (desynchronized sleep) and the appearance of frequent waking episodes during the night sleep period are observed. Narcolepsy is a lifelong disease, its treatment is symptomatic, i.e. it implies the use of wakefulness-promoting medications and complete cure of the diseases is impossible.
One of the most frequent forms of hypersomnia is a so-called idiopathic (occurring without any reasons) hypersomnia. It usually develops in young people aged 15-30. It is characterized by daytime somnolence that maintains in forced wakefulness. People with this condition can have episodes of falling asleep during the day usually when they are relaxed awake, i.e. not doing anything, without imperativeness, characteristic of narcolepsy, with a brief "recovery". Morning awakening is difficult, during the awakening may be observed aggressiveness. D-sleep in patients with idiopathic hypersomnia is well pronounced, while its significant part may fall on the last sleep cycles, which is not typical for healthy individuals and patients with narcolepsy. Falling asleep time is reduced.
Is sleeping a lot healthy?
Healthy sleep is an important component of a healthy lifestyle along with healthy eating and physical exercising. The optimal time of sleep per day is 7-9 hours. Let’s see what problems can cause excessive sleep.
– According to the studies conducted in the United States, excessive sleeping is related to the higher risk of diabetes. The study implied observing over 9,000 volunteers and concluded that the risk of diabetes is 50% higher in individuals who sleep for more than 9 hours a day.
– Excess sleep can be also dangerous for our cardiovascular system, i.e. heart and vessels. Scientists conducted a study in which 72,000 women took part, examining the effect of sleep on the risk of developing coronary disease. The results showed that women who slept nine to eleven hours a day are 38% more likely to be at risk.
– Fifteen-year study had shown that people who sleep for over 9 hours have trouble with memory and brain functioning. In particular, it was discovered that these people suffer from acceleration of brain aging and the development of neurodegenerative diseases associated with age-related changes in the body. Other studies show that men and women between the ages of 60 and 70 are more prone to the impairment of cognitive functions if they sleep more than 9 hours. Scientists note that the habit of sleeping a lot in people over 60 may be one of the negative factors in the development of various dementias.
Dementia is a very severe condition; it is an acquired disability affecting intellectual abilities, persistent reduction in cognitive activity with the loss in one degree or another of the previously acquired knowledge and practical skills and difficulty or inability to acquire new ones. According to the WHO, in 2015 there were more than 46 million people with dementia worldwide. In 2017, this number increased to 50 million. Every year, 7.7 million new cases of dementia are recorded, each of which becomes a heavy burden for families and health systems. This number is expected to increase to 131.5 million by 2050. Scientists are working hard to find ways to prevent and treat dementia and if they say that excessive sleep can be one of the factors inducing it, it would be wise to work on your sleeping schedule.
Besides, in people who stay in bed for more than 9 hours a day there is a tendency for obesity, they have frequent headaches, they suffer from bad mood during the day, are easily irritated, develop predisposition to depression, and so on. Many people like to sleep for an additional hour or two especially in the weekend morning. It seems that this additional time of sleep compensates the deficit of sleep we have during the work week. However, it doesn’t work that way. If you oversleep today, it would be harder to get up early the next day. This contributes to the violation of the general wakefulness-sleeping cycle and it is impossible to achieve perfect sleep duration especially if you don’t go to bed at time to have sufficient 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
What are the symptoms of hypersomnia?
The major symptom of the disorder is an excessive duration of night sleep which is from 10 and more hours (the precise diagnosis is made in 14 hours of sleep) and sleepiness during the day. Other typical signs of the disorder are a difficult waking up in the morning and an inability to wake up even with an alarm. In hypersomnia, the patient needs a sufficiently long period to proceed to wakefulness; for a long time, patients are in inhibited state. With daytime sleepiness, the disorder may be paroxysmal or permanent. This condition affects the performance, attentiveness, concentration and significantly reduces the working rhythm. Even naps, most often, do not bring relief to the patient.
The symptoms that may seem surprising are:
You are low in energy and suffer from fatigue. This symptom is typical for both insufficient and excessive sleep. If during the day you feel sluggish, you do not have enough energy and strength, you often want to relax, you should definitely check if you oversleep. The sleep and wakefulness regulators in our body are the so-called circadian rhythms, which are a kind of "internal clock". These "clocks" signal you when it is time to sleep, and when you need to wake up. If you sleep too long, this mechanism gets lost, circadian rhythms are disturbed, and, accordingly, periods of vigor and drowsiness are also confused. Therefore, you may feel depressed and tired, even if you woke up just a couple of hours ago.
– You are prone to depression. Oversleeping as well as lack of sleep leads to a violation of the psycho-emotional state, resulting in increased irritability, susceptibility to stress, as well as a tendency to depression. A person waking up at noon or even later has a feeling that life is passing by, and that they are wasting time. This only aggravates the depressive state. Studies have shown that among people with depression, about 15 percent sleep more than 9 hours a day. To break this vicious circle, all you need to adjust the amount of sleep.
– You noticed memory problems. Not having slept just one night, you can note problems with memory and concentration on the next day. Here again, it is important to maintain the balance because the same effect can be obtained due to an excessive amount of sleep. This is explained by the fact that for the brain of a person who systematically sleeps more than the healthy 9 hours, it becomes difficult to transform data from short-term memory into long-term memory. Thus, the quality of memory deteriorates significantly.
– You suffer from headaches. Frequent headaches are the most common symptom of excess sleep. If your head hurts during the day and / or in the morning, you should pay attention to your sleep. Reduce its quantity and follow your state of health. Perhaps the problem was in excess sleep. Scientists believe that the cause of this relationship may be the effect of oversleeping on serotonin the lack of which causes headaches during the day.
– You started gaining weight. While the body is asleep, it burns fewer calories than during wakefulness. Also, violation of circadian rhythms, leads to an imbalance of hormonal levels and disturbances in metabolic processes which leads into the accumulation of extra pounds. Scientific studies show us the dependence of sleep and the presence of excess weight. So, for people who spend more than nine hours a day sleeping, the risk of obesity is increased by 21%. Moreover, this percentage remains the same, even if the subjects are on a diet and exercise. The fewer time you leave to your body to burn calories, the more amount of food is transformed into fat tissue. If you want to lose extra weight, work on normalizing not only your diet and exercising but also the amount of sleep.
– You developed back pains. Too much sleep also causes back pain. If you stay in bed for too long, and especially if this situation is aggravated by the poor quality of the mattress, this is a sure way to earn back problems. If you suspect that the pain in the back is caused by sleep, reduce the amount of sleep and increase physical exertion.
Diagnosis of sleepiness disorder
Although you can self-diagnose hypersomnia based on the listed symptoms, and especially, on the fact that if you don’t need to get up when alarm goes off you can sleep for 14 hours or more, you can get a proper diagnosis doing:
– Special tests (Stanford sleepiness scale, sleep latency test);
– Electrophotography or polysomnography of the phases of wakefulness and nighttime sleep with the registration of the patient's breath;
– Clinical assessment of the somatic, mental, and neurological status of the patient;
– CT and MRI of the brain;
– In rare cases, the study of spinal cerebrospinal fluid is made.
The method of differential diagnosis is also used in order to exclude asthenia, chronic fatigue syndrome and other functional disorders of the body, which in their symptoms have drowsiness.
Excessive daytime sleepiness treatment
First of all, for the effective therapy it is important to find out the cause of somnolence. If it is caused by a disease or disorder, naturally, the primary measures should be aimed at eliminating it. Then, sleepiness can be relieved too. But if it persists or, for instance, there is no physiological or psychological reason for sleepiness or it is caused by a congenital defect of sleep-wake cycle regulation, wakefulness-promoting medications such as Modafinil are used.
Modafinil is a medicinal substance, a brain-stimulator that was designed to help people with narcolepsy, who simply cannot stay awake during the day due to their disorder. However, now the drug is widely used for different conditions characterized by excessive sleepiness.
The medication is sold under a variety of names – Provigil, Modalert, and others. But they are all the same and are based on the same substance, Modafinil. To save on the pills it is better to buy generic Modafinil which is the same medication simply sold under a less advertised name.
Benefits of Modafinil use
Modafinil cannot cure narcolepsy or sleepiness caused by other disorder.
The medication renders a temporary effect of regulating sleep-wake cycle.
Basically, it “tells” the brain to be awake and alerted.
Fortunately for people who use it or plan to use the drug, it has multiple advantages over other stimulants including lack of dependence and withdrawal syndrome.
Other benefits of the medication are:
– No negative effect on the heart;
– No negative effect on the stomach;
– No negative effect on the nervous system;
– 10-12 hours of productive wakefulness;
– Improved cognitive functions: memory, focus, speed of thinking, acumen, speed of tasks implementation, etc.
Many people all around the world use the medication off-label, i.e. their doctors do not prescribe Modafinil for them to treat narcolepsy. These people enjoy the effects of the medication that earned it the name of “smart drug”. The medication is so widespread and popular because it was designed for continuous use and tested to be lacking the adverse effects in long-term use.
The wakefulness-promoting effect of Modafinil cannot be compared to coffee, energy drinks, and other less potent stimulants. It can be compared only to amphetamines and only by the potency of effect. It lacks the negative aspects of amphetamines use such as dependency, damage to the health, mental disorders, and so on.
The medications based on Modafinil are used by army, police, pilots, air traffic dispatchers, and so on. Although it officially should be used only for narcolepsy, sleepiness caused by sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder, the pills can be easily bought online without a prescription as in some countries it is an over-the-counter drug. Besides, many progressive doctors prescribe it for depression, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, decrease of cognitive functions due to brain injury, chemotherapy, or other potent negative impact on the body. If you feel that you sleep too much or want to sleep too much, you can buy generic Modafinil and use it by one pill a day or even a half of a pill as in people without narcolepsy it can be enough. But please get your health checked to be sure that you do not require any other treatment.
Precautions when using Modafinil
– Take the pill only in the first half of the day or you can develop insomnia;
– Make sure to engage in something you want to be completed after the pill intake or you can get focused on the wrong tasks.
– Try to improve your sleeping cycle, start eating healthy, and doing exercises to improve your health and energy levels without fully relying on the pills.
– The medication moderately suppresses hunger so make sure to eat normally while taking the pills even if you are not hungry.
– If you don’t need Modafinil every day – do not take it every day. It doesn’t have an accumulated effect so you can take the pill only when you feel like you hadn’t had enough sleep and need a boost of energy.
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