What is it?
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder. A person with narcolepsy has excessive daytime sleepiness, with repeated episodes of sleep attacks, falling asleep involuntarily at inappropriate times.
When Can Narcolepsy Develop?
Narcolepsy can develop at any age, but it commonly starts either during the teenage years or in middle age. Narcolepsy affects both sexes equally. A combination of genetic and environmental factors may be the cause. A person with narcolepsy usually has the condition for life.
People with Narcolepsy do not typically sleep more than the average person. Narcolepsy patients sleep a normal amount but simply cannot control the timing of their sleep. Narcolepsy patients typically suffer through many years of daytime sleepiness before actually seeking medical treatment because sleepiness is not indicative of a disease to most people, and this is a big problem.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Cataplexy: a sudden loss of muscle tone. It may involve all muscles and result in collapse. It may only affect certain muscle groups and result in slurred speech or buckling of the knees.
- Hypnogogic Hallucinations: during transition from wakefulness to sleep, the person has bizarre dream-like experiences.
- Sleep Paralysis: a temporary inability to move during sleep-wake transitions.
- Disturbed sleep
- Leg jerks, nightmares, and restlessness during sleep
Treatment for Narcolepsy
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Whilst there are no cures, there are a range of treatments that can effectively manage the condition. For milder cases simple management and coping techniques like making time for naps are helpful. In more severe cases medication is the treatment of choice.
- Behavioural therapies like taking three or more scheduled naps throughout the day, establishing a sleep routine, maintaining regular exercise and avoiding heavy meals and alcohol are encouraged.
- Counselling is a prominent treatment, due to the lack of information about the Narcolepsy in the general public and the stigma attached. This stigma causes sufferers to feel isolated and depressed and the fear of falling asleep can cause excessive worry.
- Doctors typically prescribe stimulants to improve alertness and reduce daytime sleepiness. Antidepressants are also often used to treat cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis.
As discussed earlier Narcolepsy patients typically suffer through many years of daytime sleepiness before seeking medical treatment because sleepiness is not indicative of a disease to most people. It is vital that if you suffer from daytime sleepiness that you consult your doctor. It may be that you have more than just built-up fatigue and intense tiredness; you may in fact be suffering from Narcolepsy.
Take control of your health and happiness by making your sleep a priority in 2016.
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