There are many different approaches to treating Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH). As each person can respond differently it is normal for different treatments to be trialed until a treatment is found that works well for the individual. The possible causes of Hypersomnia are poorly understood so treatment normally focuses on reducing the symptoms for the individual. At the time of writing a reliable cure is unknown and one or more of the below treatments will likely remain part of a Hypersomniacs life indefinitely.
This list of treatments is by no means a complete list. Many of the descriptions have been provided by volunteers who suffer from Hypersomnia and they are anecdotal in nature only. It is fair to say that for every treatment below there are suffers of Hypersomnia who have had little or no results from that treatment (See one IH sufferers opinion on IH Treatments by clicking here). This list is provided with the hope of starting conversations with your doctor about possible treatments that can help you.
When deciding on the best treatment for you please consult with your doctor.
For a list of Doctors that others have found helpful with their Hypersomnia visit our Doctor Directory.
Known Hypersomnia Treatments
Adderall – See Amphetamine.
Alcohol – It is generally recommended that people suffering from Hypersomnia avoid all alcohol.
Amphetamine — This is one of the more successful stimulants for treating Idiopathic Hypersomnia. It provides long lasting symptomatic relief from sleepiness when given as an extended release tablet, although it may also be taken in instant release form. It allows some sufferers of IH to work and live a normal life. This stimulant is generally considered addictive and is closely regulated in many countries around the world. This medication can decrease appetite and may also speed up metabolism, facilitating weight loss. In the long term tolerance often builds up, requiring stronger and stronger dosages. Due to the cardiovascular risks and uncomfortable side effects sometimes associated with this medication it is not suitable for everyone. There can also be side effects when stopping this medication, including suicidal thoughts and increased appetite so always consult with your doctor when modifying your dosage.
Antidepressants – Antidepressants can be used to supplement other treatments for Idiopathic Hypersomnia. Antidepressants work by effecting some of the same neurotransmitters effected by the normal stimulant treatments. Because of this relationship, there is a high incidence of depression among people with Idiopathic Hypersomnia. Before a diagnosis of Idiopathic Hypersomnia can be made, depression must be ruled out. Typically the depression must be under control with the symptom of sleepiness persisting.
Armodafinil - Armodafinil is a FDA approved drug that is a purer version of the active ingredient in Modafinil. Generally speaking Armodafinil is roughly twice as strong as the same dosage of Modafinil. Dosage must be provided by your doctor although it is normally around 150-250mg upon waking. See Modafinil.
Caffeine – It is generally recommended that people suffering from Hypersomnia avoid all caffeine. Caffeine is often extensively used by sufferers prior to diagnosis when they turn to coffee, energy drinks and caffeine tablets to try and keep the tiredness at bay. While it helps with tiredness in the short term it also often leads to a crash after a couple of hours and as the body builds up a tolerance greater and greater quantities can be needed for the same effect.
Clarithromycin – Clarithromycin is an antibiotic that has recently been found to help some people reduce their excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). While the side effects can be pretty uncomfortable, specifically tummy upset and a bad taste, the wakefulness is considered by many to be far superior to that of stimulants. It is thought to act on the GABA pathway that Emory University researchers believes to be behind the sleepiness for many patients with Hypersomnia. Read more info and talk to your doctor about trying clarithromycin.
Concerta – Brand name. See Methylphenidate.
Counseling - Many people who are diagnosed with Hypersomnia will need to make significant life changes to effectively manage their health. This can often mean changes in career, family situation and loss of independence. A Counselor is a terrific resource for supporting you through that process and the emotions that can go with it.
Dextroamphetamine – See Amphetamine.
Flumazinel – This drug is FDA approved for treating drug overdoses on sleeping pills like Valium. It is also sometimes used for reversing anethetics after surgery when a patient doesn’t awaken very easily. Published research from Emory University (Georgia, USA) and Fresh Start Clinic (WA, Australia) has shown that chronic dosing of Flumazenil can be effective as a treatment for patients with Idiopathic Hypersomnia. More research is needed into the long-term safety of this treatment. At this time this treatment is one of the most difficult to access, although it is becoming easier as more patients have success with it.
Gluten Free Diet – Several people have reported anecdotally that their fatigue is less when they follow a Gluten Free Diet. A Gluten Free Diet excludes wheat (including both kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale. This is the same diet followed by sufferers of Celiac Disease and those with a Wheat Allergy.
Levothyroxine – Studied on a small number of patients in Japan this Thyroid medicine was found to reduce sleep time in Hypersomnia patients with normal thyroid results by an average of four hours per day.
Lifestyle Changes – Lifestyle Changes are a common starting place for a sufferer of Hypersomnia. These can include avoiding shift work, changes in diet (like the exclusion of alcohol/caffeine/nicotine) and introducing regular exercise into their routine. For those suffering more extreme Hypersomnia, especially when they are sleeping upwards of 16 hours a day, many of these lifestyle changes are near impossible.
Melatonin – Melatonin is a sleep hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake (circadian) rhythm. It is sometimes used by people with Idiopathic Hypersomnia who either struggle to sleep at a normal time or for those who struggle to stick to a normal schedule. Anecdotally for some patients it can help maintain more regular hours of wakefulness.
Methylphenidate – This is a stimulant, commonly known as Ritalin (instant release) or Concerta (extended release). Often used by sufferers of Idiopathic Hypersomnia for symptomatic relief from sleepiness. It allows some sufferers of IH to work and live a normal life. This stimulant is generally considered addictive and is closely regulated in many countries around the world. Some people find the short acting version of methylphenidate a good addition to other extended release medication like Modafinil, Armodafinil or Dextroamphetamine.
Modafinil – Modafinil is an analeptic drug commonly prescribed for Hypersomnia as well as narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and shift work sleep disorder. This FDA approved drugs was originally discovered in the 1980′s and has been in common usage for several decades. In 2001 over 1,000,000 prescriptions for Modafinil were written in the United States alone. There are currently no studies into the long-term effects of Modafinil although it is not FDA approved for children and it is known to reduce the effectiveness of female birth control. Modafinil is not classified as a Stimulant, but as a Wakeful Agent – this means it is often without the side effects of other stimulants such as a racing heart. This is one of the most common treatments of Hypersomnia.
Nicotine – Reports vary about whether Smoking makes a difference to Hypersomnia. Most health professionals will generally recommend Smoking and other Nicotine products are avoided in the interest of overall health.
Nuvigil – Brand name. See Armoafinil.
Provigil – Brand name. See Modafinil.
Ritalin – Brand name. See Methylphenidate.
Sodium Oxybate – This is treatment approved for the treatment of Narcolepsy. It helps with excessive daytime sleepiness for some people with Hypersomnia by allowing the patient to receive more restful and deep sleep during the night. It is a liquid that must be diluted and is generally taken in two doses, once before going to sleep and a second time 4 hours later. It is a very tightly regulated/controlled medication and generally very expensive. It is available in the United States, UK, some parts of Europe and very recently in Australia.
Sleep Hygiene – Sleep Hygiene is a series of lifestyle changes that are supposed to help with better quality sleep. They were developed specifically for treating Insomnia and are very successful at helping people who struggle to sleep. Anecdotally these guidelines will make little to no difference for people with Idiopathic Hypersomnia. For a full explanation of sleep hygiene check out this blog post.
Thyroid Medication- Thyroid Medication is highly recommended for those suffering a thryoid issue as many symptoms of thyroid problems can be similar to those of Hypersomnia. Two studies have been done in Japan where Thyroid Medication has helped alleviate symptoms of Idiopathic Hypersomnia in those with a normally functioning thyroid. Further research is needed in this area before Thyroid Medication is regularly prescribed by doctors for those with normally functioning thyroids.
Vyvanese – Brand name for Lisdexamfetamine. See Amphetamines.
Water - When sleeping for beyond 12 hours, especially in warmer climates, dehydration can become a real concern. Keeping fluids up allows the body to function optimally and get rid of toxins and waste. Water consumption is especially important for those on medication to aid with properly expelling the waste from the body. Generally speaking health professionals recommend 33ml of water per kilo of body weight (Or a half ounce per pound of body weight for those working on Imperial measurements). This can create challenges though with increased water consumption meaning more toilet breaks that can interrupt naps! Anecdotally consuming enough water can reduce the effects of Sleep Drunkenness.
Weight Loss – Many sufferers of Hypersomnia will gradually increase in weight over time due to inactivity and a tendency towards high calorie food such as chocolate. The reverse may also be true for those on many of the medications as stimulants will often reduce appetite and increase metabolism which leads to weight loss. Depending on the severity of the Hypersomnia exercise is often not possible so Weight Loss is best approached from the perspective of nutrition. Note – weight gains could also indicate hypothyroidism which can be investigated with your doctor as it shares many similar symptoms to Hypersomnia.
Xyrem – Brand name. See Sodium Oxybate.
The below links contain further reading about treatments for Hypersomnia.
Each link opens in a new browser tab/window.
- Hypersomnia Doctor Directory on the Living With Hypersomnia Website
- Idiopathic hypersomnia: clinical features and response to treatment on PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine
Is A Treatment Missing?
Do you have a treatment that you have tried for your Hypersomnia that is missing from this page? Please leave a comment below with what you have tried and your results so it can be included on this page. Similarly, if you notice an inaccuracy of have experienced an adverse reaction to a Treatment above then leave a comment below so that others can benefit from your experience.