Today, there are many people suffering from narcolepsy. However, not many of them know this fact. Narcolepsy can cause severe outcomes in your life. In this post, you will find all things you need to know about the causes, symptoms and treatment of narcolepsy.
What is Narcolepsy?
Let’s look at the definition of this sleep disorder from two authority sources:
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder, or dyssomnia, characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in which a person experiences extreme fatigue and possibly falls asleep at inappropriate times, such as while at work or at school. Narcoleptics usually experience disturbed nocturnal sleep and an abnormal daytime sleep pattern, which is often confused with insomnia. When a narcoleptic falls asleep they generally experience the REM stage of sleep within 10 minutes; whereas most people do not experience REM sleep until after 90 minutes.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. People with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime. These sudden sleep attacks may occur during any type of activity at any time of the day.
As you can now see, narcolepsy symptoms are not a sign of mental illness. The condition a neurological disorder. While people have a sleep disorder, other functions of the brain remain normal. However, after a long time, lack of proper sleep can cause problems in the way the brain functions.
Causes of Narcolepsy
Unfortunately, the causes of narcolepsy remain unknown after years of research. However, scientists suggested that this sleep disorder is caused by a genetic problem. Complex genes called HLA or Chromosome 6 seem to have a strong link to narcolepsy symptoms. These genes control the production of chemical substances in the brain that signal the sleep and wake cycles. Some scientists think the HLA genes prevent the brain from producing sufficient amount of a gene called hypocretin, which in turn causes narcolepsy symptoms.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
There are four symptoms of narcolepsy. These are:
1. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
People who suffer from narcolepsy symptoms find themselves sleepy during the day even after a long night of sleep. Sleepiness can come at any time in the day, even when working, learning, eating, etc. Night sleep is also not very well. Nighttime sleep can be interrupted quite frequently by frequent awakenings. That’s the reason why narcolepsy is usually confused with insomnia while they are completely different.
Cataplexy is one of the unique narcolepsy symptoms. People experience cataplexy when they have muscular weakness. Cataplexy can be mild or severe. In mild cases, people usually feel fatigued and lose muscles. In severe cases, they cant even move. Cataplexy is usually caused by strong emotion such as surprise, anger, laughter, etc.
3. Sleep paralysis
Sleep paralysis is a condition that makes the sufferer unable to talk or move. This narcolepsy symptom is not dangerous but it is frightening. Sleep paralysis usually lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. After that period, everything returns to normal.
4. Hypnagogic hallucinations
Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid, often frightening, dreamlike experiences that occur while dozing, falling asleep and/or while awakening.
Treatments of Narcolepsy
Another bad news for people who suffer from narcolepsy symptoms is currently, there is no effective treatment for this problem. However, while the problem cannot be treated completely, drugs are quite effective in preventing narcolepsy two significant narcolepsy symptoms: excessive daytime sleep and cataplexy. EDS is treated with amphetamine-like stimulants.
For people that experience cataplexy, there is a new treatment called Xyrem. This drug helps people get better nighttime sleep and reduces sleepiness in the daytime. However, narcolepsy is not completely cured by Xyrem. Using drugs is effective but a lifestyle change is required in order to obtain optimal results. If you are using caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other stimulants, consider stopping using them. Establish a scheduled daytime sleep will bring good results. In addition, researches showed that regular exercises can be a great help, even for normal people.
The above are some of the treatments that can help cure narcolepsy symptoms.