26-Year-Old Woman Describes What Idiopathic Hypersomnia Feels Like — “Being Trapped in ‘Groundhog Day’ Movie”

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“I’m reliving the same day, over and over,” said Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. As reported by The Sun, this experience is reality for 26-year-old Alyssa Davis. Davis compared the concept of the 1993 film to her diagnosis of a rare sleep disorder, with which she had been unknowingly struggling with for years, saying that she “relives the same exhaustion” every day. (1)

“I had never even heard of my condition before my doctor told me I had it,” said Davis in a recent Instagram post. (2

Davis said in another video that the sleep disorder has caused her to, “Consistently tumble across the tap dance floor, to zonk out on the edge in less than one minute.” She then explained that although she knew that she had the disorder in college, she was unable to receive treatment for it. “When I was diagnosed in college there was no treatment… the sleep specialist literally told me to drink coffee.” 

“A lot of the time your struggles are dismissed as a character flaw, specifically you being lazy,” she continued. (3)    

The condition, “Idiopathic hypersomnia” might not ring a bell because it affects less than 200,000 people in the United States, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. (4) 

How Does Idiopathic Hypersomnia Differ From Other Sleep Disorders? 

As you can tell from Davis’s story, idiopathic hypersomnia is entirely different from sleep deprivation, which also can cause feelings of brain fog and exhaustion. Davis’s condition is chronic, no matter how much sleep she gets. 

Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, General Practitioner and Medical Advisor at Prescription Doctor, told Sleepopolis about the key trait that distinguishes this rare sleep disorder from other seemingly similar conditions. “​​Idiopathic hypersomnia stands apart from other sleep disorders primarily due to its characteristic of excessive daytime sleepiness without a discernible cause.” (3) 

Which makes sense, given its name. Hypersomnia is a sleep disorder causing extreme daytime sleepiness, and “idiopathic” means a disease of unknown origin. 

Dr. Aragona explained how this rare disorder is different from narcolepsy, another neurological sleep disorder that may seem similar to idiopathic hypersomnia, which a few Instagram users asked Davis about in the comments of her recent post.  .

“Unlike narcolepsy, where individuals may experience sudden episodes of muscle weakness (cataplexy) or sleep attacks, idiopathic hypersomnia lacks these hallmark symptoms,” said Dr. Aragona.  

Dr. Aragona warned that excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue should not be overlooked, as they can be signs of other health issues. He says one key sign to look out for is “persistent drowsiness despite obtaining sufficient sleep duration.”

In addition to difficulties focusing, unintentional napping, and sleepiness that impacts performance at work or school, Dr. Aragona also highlighted a symptom that should never be overlooked due to its potential for dangerous accidents. 

“Microsleep episodes, wherein individuals briefly and involuntarily fall asleep, especially during activities like driving or operating machinery, pose a significant risk and demand immediate attention,” said Dr. Aragona. 

While idiopathic hypersomnia is rare and there are other conditions that can mimic its symptoms, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor if you are feeling chronically exhausted to ensure that you don’t have an underlying condition.

Luckily, 26 year old Davis got an answer that has led her on a path of finding treatment, highlighting the importance of taking sleep problems seriously. 

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Sources

  1. Salas-Rodriguez, Israel. “TOTALLY STUCK My body is trapped in Groundhog Day – doctors said ‘just drink coffee’ until ‘lightbulb moment’ diagnosed rare condition.” The Sun. March 29, 2024. https://www.the-sun.com/health/10923622/idiopathic-hypersomnia-rare-condition-sleep-groundhog-day/
  2. Davis, Alyssa. Instagram. February 24, 2024. https://www.instagram.com/alyssacdavis/p/C3vROuHLsNo/?img_index=10
  3. Davis, Alyssa. Instagram. January 15, 2024. https://www.instagram.com/reel/C2I24S9vbhi/
  4. Genetic and Rare Diseases Infromation Center. “Idiopathic Hypersomnia.” Updated February 2024. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/8737/idiopathic-hypersomnia
  5. Aragona, Giuseppe. Personal Interview. April 12, 2024.

Brianna Auray

Brianna is a Data Analyst at Sleepopolis. Her goal is to collect, analyze, and interpret data on sleep health and share new insights with our audience. When she's not researching sleep topics, Brianna enjoys working out, traveling, and hiking.

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