Narcolepsy

There are many sleep disorders and it is important to know about narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder, which causes excessive sleepiness throughout the day, but is also accompanied by frequent attacks of sleep throughout the day. This is a nervous system disorder and tends to run in families.

There are four main narcolepsy symptoms. The first of the most common four are 3 to 4 hours periods of extreme drowsiness throughout the day. Typically these periods are followed by a sleep attack, also known as a short nap. These periods throughout the day last about 15 minutes at a time and typically are preceded by eating, but you typically wake up feeling very refreshed. When between sleep and wakefulness, sometimes people experience dream-like hallucinations. These hallucinations typically involve seeing or hearing and possibly other senses.

Some people experience sleep paralysis. This is where the person is unable to move upon waking up and it may also happen when they start to feel drowsy. The final main symptom is cataplexy. Cataplexy is a loss in muscle tone. This loss is typically while awake and can result in an inability to move. Sometimes strong emotions can bring on cataplexy. Fortunately, most of the attacks are thirty seconds or less and are often missed. There is potential that the person may fall due to their knees buckling. In some severe cases, the person may become paralyzed for several minutes.

A diagnosis for narcolepsy is somewhat extensive. Typically it is begun with a physical exam and some blood work to try and rule out other possible conditions that could lead to excessive sleepiness. Sometimes the doctor will order an EEG, which monitors brain activity, and ECG, which tests the heart’s electrical activity, and genetic tests. Testing will also include at least one sleep study.

When it comes to treatment, it is all about managing the symptoms since there is no known cure. There will have to be adjustments made to your current lifestyle and you’ll need to learn how to cope with the emotional as well as other effects that the disorder will induce. Lifestyle adjustments would include eating light or even vegetarian meals during the day with scheduled naps as well as keeping supervisors informed on the condition so you are not unjustly punished for being ‘lazy.’ Some treatments may include prescription medications including stimulants to help with drowsiness and anti-depressants to reduce cataplexy.


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