Persistent Daytime Hypersomnolence

I remember early on in my career I thought I was having major issues because I was tired during the day after I got what I felt was like a decent night’s sleep. I could not put my finger on it at all. I just knew I didn’t want to go to medical or seek help. It became a running joke about me consistently falling asleep. I remember one time during Thanksgiving; I was out to sea onboard the USS George Washington, and I fell asleep in between two ovens while we were cooking dinner.

As I reflect on these times, I realize that this was a serious issue. But like many of us, we just pushed it to the side. This condition is known as persistent daytime hypersomnolence. It is defined as recurrent episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleep. I did not know how to control it, so I started attempting to self-medicate with over the counter drugs like No-Doz and other “stay awake” types of medicine. This then graduated to overindulging in energy drinks as I was just trying to combat the symptoms I was feeling. I thought if I was found out that my career would be over. This got so dangerous one time that I drove off the road because I fell asleep behind the wheel. I started to put controls in place to ensure that
would never happen again.. like not driving after dark or convincing my friends to drive.

Hypersomnolence carries some other symptoms with them:

  • anxiety
  • increased irritation
  • decreased energy
  • restlessness
  • slow thinking
  • slow speech
  • loss of appetite
  • hallucinations
  • memory difficulty

You could suffer from any or all of these as your PDH takes control of your life. I knew there had to be other causes of the conditions I was feeling. I was reaching out trying to figure what was truly wrong. As I  researched my conditions and then being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, it all started to make sense. I was not getting enough sleep at night because my airways were obstructed. Sleep deprivation was very real because no matter how late I would try to sleep in, it just wasn’t enough.

What is Persistent Daytime Hypersomnolence

Hypersomnolence can show up either through daytime tiredness or through oversleeping at night. Even though many people with PDH frequently nap during the day, they do not get relief from being tired.

There are three categories of PDH

  • acute hypersomnolence – lasts up to one-month
  • subacute hypersomnolence – lasts one to three months
  • persistent hypersomnolence – lasts over three months

It can also be caused by a physical injury such as head trauma, tumor, or damage to the central nervous system. There has also been a correlation linked to depression and other medical conditions.


A doctor must be the one to diagnose you, and there are medications you can take to help with symptoms. Majority of the time, the doctor will first rule out what else could be causing the extreme tiredness, including other medications. They may also put you on a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea. Questions the doctor will ask:

  • When did you first begin noticing symptoms
  • What makes it worse?
  • What makes it better?
  • What are your current sleeping patterns?
  • What does your sleep environment look like?
  • Are you being treated for any other medical conditions?

Hypersomnolence is seen as a very treatable disability. If you feel like you may have suffered from this while on active duty and was seen by a medical professional you may have a possible disability rating, seek the advice of Veteran Coach!

Terrell Murrell is a retired Navy Disabled Veteran. You can contact him at [email protected]

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