The medical term hypersomnia literally means excessive sleep. It can manifest as daytime drowsiness, even after a long night's rest. The desire to doze during daylight hours can be so overpowering that a person may literally fall asleep anywhere, under any circumstance. It may even happen while someone is driving, making it a dangerous condition. The flagship symptoms of hypersomnia, also called hypersomnolence, are strong urges to nap during the day, longer than normal nightly sleep times and an inability to feel refreshed after sleeping.
The consequences of hypersomnia can result in a myriad of symptoms including irritability, problems with memory, impaired thinking, slow speech, depression, loss of appetite, decreased vitality and energy levels, and, in extreme cases, hallucinations
The theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine provides many reasons why sleep and wake cycles may be disturbed. In the case of hypersomnia, the source of the problem may rest with the liver organ and the blood flow. This may sound quite strange, but the following explanation will help clear things up.
One of the great texts from ancient China, The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, states "the liver stores the blood and the heart moves it. If a person moves about in a waking state, then the blood is distributed throughout all channels; if a person rests, the blood returns to the liver." A channel, or a meridian, is an invisible pathway that carries and distributes energy throughout the body.
The heart is responsible for pumping and circulating blood, while the liver controls the amount or volume of blood needed for specific areas of the body. The liver temporarily houses the blood during times of rest and sleep. As long as the liver is storing and not sharing it with all the channels, the person remains asleep. The Great Compendium asserts that a profusion of heat in the liver can cause a person to spend much of their time sleeping or desiring sleep.
Treatment from a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine will therefore focus on relieving the excess heat from the liver through acupuncture. As the liver cools down, it will once again begin the timely release of blood along the meridians of the body, enabling a person to wake up refreshed. The acupuncture points selected will be determined by the severity of the heat. If extreme heat is present, a point with the ability to 'drain fire' may be utilized.
In the meantime, there are lifestyle suggestions that can help keep your liver healthy. One of the most important things one can do is refrain from angry outbursts. Uncontrolled anger damages the liver and easily leads to an increase in heat. Maintaining equanimity through careful thought before saying or doing anything is vital.
Gentle exercise is another way to maintain good liver health. A good walk after a meal will encourage a robust blood flow to aid digestion. Stretching is another way to encourage blood flow. Try standing on your tip toes and reaching your hands as high in the air as they will go.
Sometimes it's not what you do, but what you don't do that counts. In this case, avoiding alcohol, or drinking only in moderation, is a good idea. The liver metabolizes alcohol, so the less of it one consumes, the more energy and vitality are preserved.
Hypersomnnia can result from neurological diseases, head trauma, substance abuse, side effects from prescription drugs and sleep deprivation. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that is very similar to hypersomnia, but is considered more severe in its symptoms.
If you find yourself spending too much time sleeping in bed or napping on the couch, without ever feeling ready for the day, consult your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to discuss your concerns.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.