If you have hypersomnia, or know someone that does, then you should be aware that very often a form of hypersomnia depression will also develop.
The hypersomnia is devastating enough to someone’s life, adding in depression can make it almost unbearable.
Fortunately, it is a recognized risk with the disorder and almost all treatment plans include a method to alleviate and/or prevent clinical depression.
Hypersomnia depression may not be preventable in everyone, but it can be treated so that it doesn’t add another debilitating factor to the person’s life.
What is hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is a very rare disorder where despite sleeping adequate hours at night on a regular basis, the person is driven by exhaustion to sleep for prolonged periods during the day.
The night time sleep follows normal and healthy sleep patterns, but the urge to take hour’s long naps during the day is unavoidable, similar to how someone with narcolepsy naps.
The difference in the naps is that while someone with narcolepsy can learn to use a brief power nap to control their disorder and to refresh themselves, someone with hypersomnia experiences no relief from exhaustion with their nap.
In fact, they may often awake confused and more tired than before. Their naps are also characterized by an intensely deep sleep from which they are hard to wake.
They also may experience common episodes of sleep paralysis and hypnogogic imagery.
Hypersomnia is considered to be one of the most debilitating forms of sleep deprivation to suffer.
While sleep deprivation is known to cause anxiety attacks, hypersomnia is directly linked to depression.
Why is it considered a form of sleep deprivation?
While we tend to think of sleep deprivation of being the act of not sleeping or not getting enough sleep, it has more to do with the quality of sleep you are getting on a regular basis.
This why people who are under stress, but still sleeping 8 hours a day, may become progressively more exhausted.
The brain states they are reaching when asleep are not conducive to restoration and renewal of the body’s processes. With hypersomnia, the person is sleeping excessive amounts – the quality of the sleep is poor.
It isn’t poor because they are waking up frequently or not getting to the deeper stages of sleep, it is considered to be poor because they are getting to the deep stage 3 sleeps and becoming “locked” there.
To sleep well, the brain doesn’t just move down through the sleep stages and then back up again to wakefulness, it has a fluctuating pattern of moving through the stages, sometimes going back up one before descending down two for example.
With hypersomnia, there is no movement and this is reflected in the lack of eye movement, experience of sleep paralysis and the amount of time they stay in stage 3.
What causes it?
Scientists aren’t sure what causes people to develop hypersomnia. It is considered to be an idiopathic condition, which means it occurs spontaneously.
It comes about spontaneously, but then it can remain as a daily condition for the person for a very long time.
There have been some recent findings that notice an interplay in the GABA receptors that is not understood completely, nor does it appear to be present in everyone that is suffering from hypersomnia.
Why would people get depressed?
There are two main reasons that people are at risk for hypersomnia depression.
The first is that this excess of sleep causes an imbalance of hormones in the body that can lead to a chemical imbalance that can promote depression.
The other reason is that the experience of living with hypersomnia can be devastating.
Imagine that you go from having a social life and work life that you enjoy, to not being able to participate in any of it because you fall asleep for hours at a time?
It wouldn’t be so bad, but all that sleep isn’t making you feel better – it is leaving you exhausted, weak and confused. Very often, the dreams you are having are causing anxiety or fear as well.
The sheer sense of lack of control over your body and mind when you have hypersomnia is debilitating.
This very often is enough to drive people into a deep depression. Add to this the fact that it is a long term condition and it can feel like you will never get better.
What can you do to manage hypersomnia depression?
The best treatment for hypersomnia depression may be a combination of talk therapy and medication.
Medication isn’t always encouraged as so little is known about what is going on in the brain to cause the hypersomnia, but it may be recommended in some cases.
The goal with the therapy and medication is not to fix or get rid of the hypersomnia, but to teach you how to live with it better, understand the condition and to not fall into a depressed state.
Hypersomnia is such a rare disorder that it is not uncommon for people who have it (but that haven’t been diagnosed yet) to be told that they are just being “lazy” or that drinking more coffee would help.
This can aggravate feelings of shame, embarrassment, and being out of control that can all make someone depressed.
How can I reduce my risk of getting depressed?
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing hypersomnia depression is to become proactive in your treatment.
One of the things that are very common is that people with the condition will develop different methods of creating ways to wake themselves up.
These methods don’t always work and require a constant amount of change and adjustment, but they can become very elaborate.
By keeping yourself involved in the effort to do something about waking, you can help to keep yourself from being overwhelmed.
Another way that people work to control hypersomnia depression is they get even better about developing a solid sleep hygiene schedule to make their nighttime sleep more effective too.