Hypersomnia refers to a set of related disorders that involve excessive daytime sleepiness. There are two main categories of hypersomnia: primary hypersomnia (sometimes called idiopathic hypersomnia) and recurrent hypersomnia (sometimes called recurrent primary hypersomnia). Both are characterized by the same signs and symptoms and differ only in the frequency and regularity with which the symptoms occur. Primary hypersomnia is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness over a long period of time. The symptoms are present all, or nearly all, of the time. Recurring hypersomnia involves periods of excessive daytime sleepiness that can last from one to many days, and recur over the course of a year or more. The primary difference between this and primary hypersomnia is that persons experiencing recurring hypersomnia will have prolonged periods where they do not exhibit any signs of hypersomnia, whereas persons experiencing primary hypersomnia are affected by it nearly all the time. One of the best documented forms of recurrent hypersomnia is Kleine-Levin syndrome, although there are other forms as well. There are many different causes for daytime sleepiness that are not considered hypersomnia, and there are many diseases and disorders in which excessive daytime sleepiness is a primary or secondary symptom. Feelings of daytime sleepiness are often associated with the use of common substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and many medications. Other common factors that can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness that is not considered hypersomnia include shift work and insomnia. Shift work can disrupt the body's natural sleep rhythms. Insomnia can cause excessive daytime sleepiness because of lack of nighttime sleep, and is a separate disorder.

  1. People experiencing hypersomnia do not get abnormal amounts of nighttime sleep. However, they often have problems waking up in the morning and staying awake during the day. People with hypersomnia nap frequently, and upon waking from the nap, do not feel refreshed. Hypersomnia is sometimes misdiagnosed as narcolepsy. In many ways the two are similar. One significant difference is that people with narcolepsy experience a sudden onset of sleepiness, while people with hypersomnia experience increasing sleepiness over time. Also, people with narcolepsy find daytime sleep refreshing, while people with hypersomnia do not.
  2. People with Kleine-Levin syndrome have symptoms that differ from the symptoms of other forms of hypersomnia. These people may sleep for 18 or more hours a day. In addition, they are often irritable, uninhibited, and make indiscriminate sexual advances. People with Kleine-Levin syndrome often eat uncontrollably and rapidly gain weight, unlike people with other forms of hypersomnia.