How To Deal with Narcolepsy
If you have a lot of trouble staying awake when you are in relaxing conditions or during the day when those around you are wide awake, you might be suffering from narcolepsy. If you suspect you might have narcolepsy and are wondering what to do about it, this article will give you all the information you need to know.
What Is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is more than just feeling sleepy in a warm room or letting exhaustion overtake you at the end of the evening. It’s a neurological disorder which impacts how your body controls sleep and being awake. It’s not just a matter of feeling tired – with narcolepsy a person can’t seem to stay awake. They have no control over it. They’ll fall asleep during the day in various episodes and feel excessively sleepy during the daytime.
People with narcolepsy will enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep almost as soon as they fall asleep. That’s a deep stage of sleep most people don’t reach until about 90 minutes of sleep. It’s in the REM stage of sleep that dreams happen.
Why Does Narcolepsy Happen?
Why some people get narcolepsy and others don’t is not certain. But scientists have begun to identify genes that some people have which are believed to be related to narcolepsy. The theory is that these genes might impact the brain’s chemicals that control sleep and wakefulness.
But having these genes doesn’t mean narcolepsy is unavoidable. Scientists believe more than one factor leads to narcolepsy, including brain abnormalities.
What Are Some of the Signs of Narcolepsy?
There are several hallmark symptoms of narcolepsy, including:
Sleep paralysis: Sleep paralysis is when a person can’t speak or move when they are drifting off to sleep or when they are waking up. It might only last anywhere from mere seconds to a few minutes, but it can be a troubling symptom for those suffering from it. Once the temporary paralysis ends, the person is able to move and speak without trouble.
Hallucinations: The hallucinations caused by narcolepsy can be scary and seem absolutely real to those suffering from them. Most of the hallucinations are visual in nature, but they can also incorporate other senses.
Cataplexy: Cataplexy involves a quick loss of muscle tone. That can cause problems such as falling down, speech problems, and weakness. Strong emotions like rage, amusement, and surprise can cause this symptom.
Excessive daytime sleepiness: This symptom isn’t as simple as someone who stays up too late and is tired the next day as a result. For those with narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness occurs even if a person has had enough sleep the night before. Signs of excessive daytime sleepiness include having no energy or concentration, being depressed, feeling exhausted, and not being able to remember things.
How Can You Know for Certain if You Have Narcolepsy?
You’ll need to be examined by a doctor for a proper diagnosis. You’ll likely have to undergo testing in a sleep disorder clinic. Two popular tests that can lead to a diagnosis are the polysomnogram (PSG), an overnight test which looks for sleep cycle abnormalities, and the multiple sleep latency test (MLST), a daytime test.
What Can Be Done About Narcolepsy?
The bad news is there is no treatment for narcolepsy, but the good news is that it can be managed. The symptoms do respond to pharmaceutical treatments, such as stimulants for the sleepiness and antidepressant drugs for the REM sleep abnormalities.
Sufferers might find some relief by implementing lifestyle changes too. They should eliminate the caffeine from their diets, skip alcohol, avoid nicotine, and stay away from overeating heavy meals. They should also exercise, make sure their sleep routines stay on a schedule, and take short 15 minute daytime naps when possible.