Idiopathic hypersomnia

Sleep Med Rev. 2016 Oct;29:23-33. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2015.08.007. Epub 2015 Sep 3.


Idiopathic hypersomnia continues to evolve from the concept of "sleep drunkenness" introduced by Bedrich Roth in Prague in 1956 and the description of idiopathic hypersomnia with two forms, polysymptomatic and monosymptomatic, by the same Bedrich Roth in 1976. The diagnostic criteria of idiopathic hypersomnia have varied with the successive revisions of the International classifications of sleep disorders, including the recent 3rd edition. No epidemiological studies have been conducted so far. Disease onset occurs most often during adolescence or young adulthood. A familial background is often present but rigorous studies are still lacking. The key manifestation is hypersomnolence. It is often accompanied by sleep of long duration and debilitating sleep inertia. Polysomnography (PSG) followed by a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) is mandatory, as well as a 24 h PSG or a 2-wk actigraphy in association with a sleep log to ensure a total 24-h sleep time longer than or equal to 66O minutes, when the mean sleep latency on the MSLT is longer than 8 min. Yet, MSLT is neither sensitive nor specific and the polysomnographic diagnostic criteria require continuous readjustment and biologic markers are still lacking. Idiopathic hypersomnia is most often a chronic condition though spontaneous remission may occur. The condition is disabling, sometimes even more so than narcolepsy type 1 or 2. Based on neurochemical, genetic and immunological analyses as well as on exploration of the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep, various pathophysiological hypotheses have been proposed. Differential diagnosis involves a number of diseases and it is not yet clear whether idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy type 2 are not the same condition. Until now, the treatment of idiopathic hypersomnia has mirrored that of the sleepiness of narcolepsy type 1 or 2. The first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of modafinil have just been published, as well as a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of clarithromycine, a negative allosteric modulator of the γ-aminobutyric acid-A receptor.

Keywords: Diagnostic criteria; Genetics; Homeostatic and circadian regulation; Hypersomnolence; Idiopathic hypersomnia; Immunology; Neurochemistry; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia / diagnosis*
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia / drug therapy
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia / physiopathology*
  • Modafinil
  • Narcolepsy / diagnosis
  • Narcolepsy / physiopathology
  • Polysomnography


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Modafinil