Narcolepsy is a chronic sleeping disorder which includes extra sleepiness in a person. It is also known as a chronic or neurological disorder which causes excessive daytime sleepiness and disturbed night sleeps.
Narcolepsy has nothing to with the age group or sexes; it is common for both men and women of different age groups. Symptoms of this disorder can be observed in childhood or even in adolescence. Proper diagnosis of this problem must be made in order to avoid chronic effects.
Scientific study claims about the sleep cycle of a person start from the initial stage of sleep, followed by a deep sleep which is approximate of 90 minutes of duration where REM (rapid eye movement) occurs. Those who suffer from narcolepsy for them REM occurrence frequency is measured to be within 15 minutes in a complete sleep cycle.
Here are the types of narcolepsy:
- Type 1 – Narcolepsy with Cataplexy
- Type 2 – Narcolepsy without Cataplexy
- Secondary Narcolepsy – It occurs due to injury in the hypothalamus, which is a part of the brain that is involved in sleep.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
- EDS (Excessive Daytime Sleepiness)
The mainframe symptom of narcolepsy signifies in excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). It is also known as sleep attacks, which can lead to lack of concentration, reduced energy, and sometimes a depressed mood.
Cataplexy is referred to as muscle weakness in the face, knees, or neck. The intensity of this problem can be mild or extreme in some cases. Having weakness is common in this situation where sometimes it’s limited to head drop while in extreme cases, it might result in complete collapse as well. Generally, weakness lasts for 2 minutes or even less.
- Hypnogogic Hallucination
These are often considered as vivid caused by a mixture of wakefulness. Another possible reason for this frightening scenario might be due to dreaming, which occurs with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Diagnosis of Narcolepsy
The problem of narcolepsy can be experienced due to a number of reasons; if a person is experiencing over sleepiness condition, then they must seek proper medical attention as soon as possible. Diagnosis of narcolepsy has always been confusing and hard to identify. Hence there are few questions which one should ask with them to self-diagnose the problem:
- Feel sleepy most of the day?
- The total duration of night sleep?
- Feel rested on waking up?
- Experience of unusual sensations?
- Any muscle weakness while being angry or laughing?
Studies and researches can help in the diagnosis of narcolepsy. There are several sleep tests carried out to diagnose the problem in the patient. PSG or polysomnogram and MSLT (Multiple sleep latency test) are the two tests which are carried out in the diagnosis of narcolepsy.
Treatment of Narcolepsy
As there no certain causes determined for narcolepsy similarly, there are no cures for it. A few medications can help up to some extent, to manage the problem. Antidepressants can treat cataplexy symptom. These medications can also be used to treat REM sleep.
Sleepiness (EDS) is treated using stimulants like dexamphetamine, modafinil. These drugs are generally low cost and abundantly available; hence, they are categorized into first-line therapy. They are categorized into controlled substances which are tolerable for the human body. But in some of the cases, there might be some side-effects like anxiety, insomnia, and even frequent headaches.
Antidepressants are generally used in reducing Cataplexy. The main function of these drugs is to suppress REM sleep. Cataplexy can be relived using sodium oxybate. Medications used for cataplexy can have side-effects like constipation and blurred vision.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene can always help in all aspects of life.
Few tips which can help to improve sleeping hygiene could be:
- Having a proper bedtime with a good amount of sleep
- Consume fewer fluids before going to bed
- Say no to alcohol, caffeine in late noon or evening
- Regular exercise with a balanced diet
Narcolepsy, as explained, doesn’t have any specific cure. Hence in order to get relieved from it, one must have a proper and healthy lifestyle which includes good sleep, regular exercises, and balanced meal daily. Medication like Provigil, which is modafinil, can be used to treat excessive sleepiness. Diagnose yourself and see a doctor without delay if the problem persists. Be healthy. Be happy.