What is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a serious chronic condition that causes a sleep disorder, which involves daytime drowsiness and sudden sleep attacks without your command. No matter the situation or the place, people suffering from narcolepsy might suddenly fall sleep, causing a real problem during daily life activities.
Narcolepsy Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of narcolepsy can be different from person to person and symptoms usually have some calm and more frequent periods during life. Some of the symptoms related to this condition include:
- Sudden sleep attack, which is related to a sudden loss of muscle tone, a condition known as cataplexy
- Excessive sleepiness during the day, which usually is the first symptom related to this condition
- Sleep paralysis. Here, you might experience the inability to move during sleep and after being consciously awake, which can be a very terrifying symptom
Unfortunately, the exact cause of narcolepsy remains unknown until now. However, experts have established that people suffering from narcolepsy have low levels of some neurochemical substances like hypocretin, which normally regulated sleep and wakefulness. Also, narcolepsy seems to be related to some genetical component, since this condition frequently affects a lot of members from the same family and several generations as well.
Your doctor will suspect that you have narcolepsy if you show any of the typical symptoms described above. Additionally, in order to confirm your diagnosis, you might require some other tests and you might be referred to a sleep specialist for further evaluation.
The specialist will perform the following tests:
- Sleep diary. Your doctor will ask you to describe every component of your sleep as well as your sleep pattern, for a couple of weeks, in order to detect and compare any abnormality in your sleep pattern.
- Polysomnography. This test requires you to spend one night at a sleep center. During polysomnography, your body activity, including brain, heart, muscles and eyes activity will be monitored and recorded for subsequent analysis.
Narcolepsy has no cure, but there are some treatment options to help you manage the symptoms caused by this condition.
- Antidepressants. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are not only used to treat depression, but they are also useful for a large list of other neurological conditions, including narcolepsy. Here, SSRIs helps suppressing REM sleep, and as a result, reducing cataplexy and sleep paralysis.