What is the difference between hypersomnia and narcolepsy?

I consistently feel sleepy throughout the day and I am not sure why. I have done research and I believe I may either have hypersomnia or narcolepsy. What is the difference between these two disorders and how can I tell which one I have?

Doctors Answers (2)

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 12/3/2013

Hypersomnia is a word which translates to "excessively sleepy". Many sleep disorders are associated with hypersomnia. Excluding narcolepsy, which is often associated with a deficiency of a chemical that promotes wakefulness. Most people with hypersomnia have a sleep pattern which is fragmented and/or restorative sleep is missing or reduced. Of course, medications can cause daytime sleepiness. The diagnosis of narcolepsy is relatively easy in the hands of a sleep specialist and other causes for sleepiness or hypersomnia is also often easy to diagnose

Robert C. Jones, M.D.
Answered on: 11/7/2013

Both conditions have excessive sleepiness as their primary symptom. What makes them different is that narcolepsy will have REM onsets during 2 or more nap attempts on the multiple sleep latency test. Cataplexy may also be seen with narcolepsy. Treatment for both includes stimulant medication and if possible scheduled napping during the day.