HEALTHY LIVING
01/27/2012 11:44 am ET Updated Jan 27, 2012

5 Tips for Battling Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is a common sleep disorder that can affect anyone. We spoke to Clifton Hunt, M.D., a founder of the Delaware Sleep Disorders Centers based in Wilmington, Del., for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have hypersomnia, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Holly Quinn

If you find yourself frequently dozing off during waking hours, you may suffer from hypersomnia. "Everybody gets sleepy during the day sometimes," says Dr. Hunt. "Hypersomnia is when you're tired enough to nap and not function well all the time." Hypersomnia can be life-threatening -- and dangerous to others -- if you fall asleep at the wheel, and should be treated.

Check for Sleep Apnea

"The number one thing you should do is check for sleep apnea," Dr. Hunt advises. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where a person stops breathing periodically during the night, causing them to wake, sometimes without knowing it. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and sometimes wake up gasping.

Avoid Alcohol

Skip the drinks if you suffer from hypersomnia. "Alcohol can make hypersomnia worse," says Dr. Hunt. "You want to avoid any kind of sedative." Conversely, caffeine can help. Talk to your doctor about medications that can help treat hypersomnia.

Check Your Medications

If you take prescription medication, it's possible that your hypersomnia is a side effect. According to Dr. Hunt, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and medications for chronic pain are among the ones likely to cause excessive sleepiness.

Stay Active

"Staying active keeps people awake," says Dr. Hunt. Excercise daily -- you should be doing this anyway for your overall health. If you have a sedentary job and find yourself dozing off, take breaks throughout the day to move around.

Take the Epworth Test

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is an online tool that can help measure the level of sleepiness during the day. "If you have a high score, you should speak to your family physician or a sleep specialist," says Dr. Hunt.

Clifton Hunt, M.D., is the medical director for the Stoney Batter Cleep Center in Pike Creek, Del., and is a founder of the Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers located throughout the state. Dr. Hunt is board certified in sleep medicine, pulmonary medicine and internal medicine.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?

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