I’ve lost so many years of my life to an insatiable need for sleep – it’s ruining my life

A woman says she has lost years of her life to a condition that leaves her with an insatiable need for sleep.

Helena Smythe, 23, feels good tired all day – no matter how well she sleeps at night – and has to take at least two hours of naps every day.

She has a little-known condition called hypersomniaalso known as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).

It can also cause symptoms such as irritability, loss of appetite, slow thinking or speaking, and memory problems.

Although not life-threatening, the condition can ruin the life of those affected.

Helena said: “I have an insatiable appetite for sleep and while some people can just wake up with a coffee or some caffeine, that doesn’t work for me.

“I have to take a nap every day and 20 minutes or half an hour is not enough. It must be two or three hours at a time.

“The main symptom is that I feel excessively sleepy during the dayno matter how much sleep I get at night or how long I sleep.”

Helena has lived with hypersomnia since she was 12 and explained how she “missed out” and suffered at school as a teenager.

She said: “I would miss school, cancel social events and even fall asleep during a high school exam.

“I’ve had to plan my whole life around sleep and choose between science and friends.

“I can’t tell you how much I missed as a teenager; I lost sleep for so many years.”

Smythe says she feels tired all day long, no matter how well she sleeps at night.
Royal Papworth Hospital / SWNS

Doctors do not know the underlying cause of Helena’s hypersomnia (idiopathic).

Some people get secondary hypersomnia as a result of a condition such as sleep apnea, Parkinson’s disease, and kidney failure.

There is no cure and the condition can only be treated through medication.

Helena is set to take up full-time work soon and said she was nervous that her need for sleep could interfere with her work.

She is taking part in sleep studies at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge and said medication helps her to some extent.

Helena said: “I’m on medication which helps alleviate my symptoms and although they haven’t completely eliminated the problem my quality of life is much better and I can get on with a much more ‘normal’ sleep.

“My advice to people is that sleep health needs to be taken seriously.

“It should be just as important as eating right, not drinking too much alcohol, not smoking, and exercising.

“Some of the advice that has worked for me has been about improving sleep hygiene and specifically getting into a proper routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.”

Sleep hygiene includes keeping the bedroom as sleep-promoting as possible, e.g. B. by lowering the lighting and removing screens.

This story originally appeared on The sun and is reproduced here with permission. I’ve lost so many years of my life to an insatiable need for sleep – it’s ruining my life


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