Narcolepsy is a chronic disease for which there’s no cure. It is somewhat rare, but it still affects hundreds of thousands of people. Fortunately, your sleep specialist can help with diagnosing and treating narcolepsy. However, medications and lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. Support from others like family, friends, employers, teachers can help you cope with narcolepsy.
So, what is narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder through which your sleeping and waking progressions are disrupted. People with narcolepsy regularly find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time, irrespective of the circumstances. Narcolepsy origins rapid eye movement or your REM sleep cycle to begin within minutes of falling asleep. The REM cycle usually occurs much later after falling asleep. As a result, regular sleep patterns are disrupted.
Narcolepsy can reason the following symptoms:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness is the main sign of narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy fall asleep without warning, anywhere, anytime. You may also experience decreased alertness and focus throughout the day.
- Automatic behaviors are actions the narcoleptic is unaware of doing
- Nighttime sleep disruption like waking up several times during the night
- Sleep paralysis is a feeling of inability to move. People with narcolepsy every so often experience a temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking. You may be conscious of the condition and have no difficulty recalling it afterward, even if you had no control over what was happening to you.
- Sleep hallucinations including seeing vivid images when waking up or fall asleep. These hallucinations may be mostly vivid and frightening as you may not be fully asleep when you begin dreaming and you experience your dreams as reality.
- Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle control. Can cause a number of physical changes, from unclear speech to complete weakness of most muscles, and may last for a few minutes.
- Irritability or restlessness is most often seen in children with narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a potentially risky condition, especially if you are driving or operating machinery when a drowsiness episode occurs. In fact, conferring to the National Sleep Foundation, narcoleptics are 3 to 4 times more likely to be in a car accident.
If you doubtful about you or someone you know might have narcolepsy, then the first step is contacting your sleep specialist. Your doctor will take a full medical history, along with your signs and symptoms, date of onset, and other aspects. Sleep studies are often part of the initial analysis.
If narcolepsy is identified then immediate treatment can begin. There is no cure for narcolepsy, so the goals of treatment are to ensure patient safety, reducing the symptoms, and progress quality of life.
Treatment options include:
- Behavioral change, including taking short naps, developing a healthy exercise routine, developing a sleep schedule, and avoiding alcohol and sedatives
- Medication therapy, including medications to reduce daytime sleepiness, and reduce cataplexy
There are only a few known risk factors for narcolepsy, including:
- Age. Narcolepsy typically begins in people between 10 and 30 years old.
- Family history. Your risk of narcolepsy is 20 to 40 times more if you have a family member who has narcolepsy.