Narcolepsy

Young Man Sleeping

Defining Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a special kind of sleep disorder characterized by a neurological inability to control one’s sleep and waking cycles consistently. Its patients typically experience trouble in getting proper sleep at night. People with narcolepsy generally get sleepy during inappropriate times and during the day. They primary knowledge about understanding this sleep disorder revolves around the role of a person’s nervous system.

Hypersomnia, Insomnia, Dyssomnia etc. are mainly attributed to mental stress or psychological disturbances. However, narcolepsy is not characterized by a person’s emotional imbalance. It is strictly governed by the biological functions of the neurological system of the human body. Its patients find it hard to stay awake for long time duration and tend to fall asleep at odd hours. This can lead to a severe disturbance in their day to day life.

Signs and Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Day time drowsiness
  • Sudden attacks of sleep
  • Difficulty in staying awake for long
  • Cataplexy
  • Hypnogogic hallucinations
  • Broken nocturnal sleep
  • Body jerks or paralysis during sleep
  • Deep dreaming during sleep

Causes and Risk Factors

There are no clear reasons for narcolepsy, though research has made strides in finding the deep connection between the acute sleep disorder and the nervous system. It has been discovered that absence or acute deficiency of a chemical known as hypocretin, produced by the brain, is one of the biggest reasons for it. This chemical is the characteristic indicator of sleep and wake up signals to the brain. The low quantity of hyprocretin in cerebrospinal fluid is the biggest cause of narcolepsy. This can also lead to cataplexy. It is a condition in which one feels sudden loss in muscle tone causing extreme body weakness and deficit of muscle strength.

Narcolepsy in an individual also has a genetic connection. Individuals are at higher risk of suffering this sleep disorder in case parents or siblings have experienced it in the past. Research has also shown as that narcolepsy may also be caused due to reduction in the production of the brain protein known as Orexin-A by the neurons.

Narcoleptic symptoms ignored for a very long time can result in major health hazards. Narcolepsy can bring a lot of physical risks to an individual. The easiest way to diagnose acute narcolepsy is to experience sudden loss in muscle strength resulting in dizzy or sleepy feeling. Below are the common risks associated with Narcolepsy:

  • Accidents and injuries due to sudden loss in muscle strength
  • Mild attacks or paralysis
  • Memory loss
  • Death

Treatment

Narcolepsy is better treated when diagnosed early. There are various tests that have a good success rate of diagnosing the sleep disorder. In case, you come across any of the symptoms causing Narcolepsy, you should instantly get polysomnogram (PSG) or multiple sleep latency test (popularly known as MSLT) done. Narcolepsy can strike a person at any age. Although most of the reported cases state that typical narcoleptic disorders come during early adolescence. In case any of the narcoleptic symptoms are noticed in your teenager child, take them seriously and get the child diagnosed during the early stages of Narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is abetted rather than treated. It can take a few months to be sure of this body disorder. There are many drugs that are useful to control the central nervous system of a narcoleptic individual. Some of these include methylphenidate, amphetamine, modafinil, etc. Along with medication, behavioral changes go a long way in treating narcolepsy. Tracking sleep cycles and enforcement of a routine can be of real help. It is best to visit a rehabilitation facility especially if coupled with an addiction.

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