Sleeping Disorder Narcolepsy

December 8, 2008

in Narcolepsy, Sleeping Disorders

Overview

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that is characterized by sudden attacks of sleep. The person most probably experiences disturbed sleep pattern during the night and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).

Causes

The cause of narcolepsy is due to the inability of the brain to normally regulate sleep-wake cycles. Studies have discovered that narcoleptics lack hypocretin or orexin, a chemical found in the brain that is responsible for regulating sleep and activating arousal.

Heredity is also found to be a predisposing factor in narcolepsy.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms found in a person with narcolepsy are Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) and the abnormal REM sleep.

Other symptoms are:

* Cataplexy or loss of muscle control. Narcoleptic persons may experience episodes of sudden loss of muscle control while they are awake. It is commonly triggered by strong emotions.
* Sleep paralysis. This happens either at the beginning or at the end of the sleep wherein the person experiences inability to move or talk.
* Hallucinations. This is characterized by frightening visual or auditory perceptions in the absence of a stimulus. This may take place upon sleeping or upon waking up.
* Wakefulness during the night. People with narcolepsy usual experience problem with falling asleep at night. This condition is sometimes accompanied with elevated heart rate, intense alertness and hot flashes.
* Unusual rapid entry into the REM sleep cycle. This is a unique sleep cycle disorder that is common to narcoleptic people. Normally, people enter the REM or dream phase about 90 minutes after falling asleep, whereas in narcoleptics, they enter this phase immediately right after they fall asleep.
* Microsleep. Narcoleptics experience short sleep episodes that are accompanied with continuous muscle activities like talking.

When to get help

If the symptoms, especially excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), worsens and seriously disrupts personal or professional life, then seeing a doctor is necessary.

Diagnosing Narcolepsy

There are a lot of ways that are used in order to diagnose narcolepsy in a person, but it may sometimes take a year or more before the doctor can finally role in that it is really narcolepsy.

Diagnostic methods for narcolepsy are Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), spinal fluid analysis, epworth sleepiness scale and nocturnal polysomnogram.

Treatment

No cure exists for narcolepsy but there are managements for the control and relief of the symptoms. Common recommended treatments include medications, behavioral changes and counseling.Commonly prescribed drugs that can help manage the symptoms of narcolepsy are the following:

* For excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), central nervous system stimulant medications such as dextroamphetamine, modafinil, methylphenidate, methamphetamine and racemic amphetamine are prescribed.
* For cataplexy and other REM-sleep symptoms, tricyclic antidepressants such as
protriptyline, imipramine, and clomipramine are used.

It may be necessary to reach out to a psychologist, support group, or counselor to help the person and as well as the family to cope up with the emotional effects of the condition. Behavioral and lifestyle changes may also be necessary such as avoiding alcohol, nicotine and caffeine and exercising on a regular basis.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

hoygirl December 9, 2008 at 2:20 pm

I used to know a woman who said she suffered fomr this. I don`t believe her because she would go play bingo all the time for hours and never fall asleep. She finally after 4 years got disability for this. Do you think there is a way to fake this? I think she did. I can`t prove it though. She doesn`t seem to fit the profile here though.

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antkmom December 16, 2008 at 10:58 am

This is really interesting. I can’t imagine having such symptoms. I know people who say they are tired all the time, but they don’t fall asleep many times during the day. Scarey that it is hereditary too.

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