Spotlight on Hypersomnolence

Hypersomnolence is deleteriously prevalent, especially in modern society. The common medical complaint has various underpinnings. Sleep medicine, as a growing field or subspecialty, can evaluate the nature of the problem and improve life and longevity with a myriad of scientifically effective interventions. The cost to society, if sleepiness is left unaddressed, is profound given the negative effects on health and on education and on work-related issues, including workableness and propensity toward accidents and clashes.

Hypersomnolence, or excessive daytime sleepiness, is a frequent complaint of patients and a symptom associated with many medical conditions, including intrinsic sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea or insufficient nighttime sleep. Though a nearly universal experience, sleepiness is often ignored or minimized by patients, often increasing their risk for industrial or motor vehicle accidents.

In this article, Dr. Richard Knudsen of University of California Davis Medical Center discusses the differential diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of this often overlooked symptom complex. Information from the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (3rd edition) is highlighted. Newer therapeutic agents, deemed somnolytics, are reviewed.

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