Narcolepsy is a disease of the Central Nervous System resulting in a sleep disorder characterized by attacks of irresistible daytime sleepiness and sudden falling asleep at the usual time of waking, and also bouts of cataplexy, i.e. sudden loss of muscle tone in clear consciousness, insomnia, impaired night’s sleep, appearances when falling asleep and waking hallucinations. Sometimes there is a short-term paralysis of the body immediately after waking up.
Causes of Narcolepsy
The exact cause of narcolepsy is not well understood. According to some experts, they are based on a lack of biologically active substances in the brain, re regulating the processes of sleep and waking. Factors that contribute to the development of this disease, often serve as trauma to the skull, severe debilitating infections, sudden fatigue. Sometimes the disease is associated with the function of the endocrine glands, especially the pituitary gland violation. In some cases, narcolepsy runs in families. Psychiatric and psychological problems are not the cause of narcolepsy.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
- Strong drowsiness in the daytime,
- Cataplexy – sudden loss of muscle strength
- Paralysis during sleep
- Violations of the nocturnal sleep phase
- Automatic behavior
- Blurred, double vision
The first symptoms usually occur in previously healthy person in adolescence or young and last a lifetime. The symptoms of narcolepsy can appear all at once or develop gradually over many years.
- Irresistible daytime sleepiness plus the “forced” sleep, which can occur at any time (reading a book, watching TV, during conversations, driving). This sleepiness occurs in humans after a night’s sleep. Patients often describe feeling fatigue, apathy, they are too lazy to do something, no energy. To resist falling asleep only a short time, but when they’re asleep, easy to wake up. The number of such attacks per day can be very different , and each one usually lasts about an hour or less. Waking people may feel refreshed, but able to sleep again in a few minutes and sleep all day. In this sleepiness, it is difficult to work, study, the person loses concentration, memory, lost motivation, increased irritability.
- Full-sleep at night (appears mainly in very frequent awakenings, insomnia);
- Hallucinations – unreal frightening in most cases, vision or feeling is often threatening when falling asleep and awakening;
- Cataplexy, i.e. sudden loss of muscle tone, usually on the back of strong emotion such as laughter, anger or excitement, surprise. During attacks, which can last from a few seconds up to half an hour, the man unable to hold his head, feeling weakness in the hands, knees, which often leads to fall;
- Sleep Paralysis, i.e., a condition in which the waking man adequately assess their environment, but completely owns his own body, he is unable to move or speak.
- Automatic behavior– this patients to perform usual activities without realizing that he did. Sometimes the person may actually fall asleep and continue an activity, but not to remember it after you Wake up. Automatic behavior can be a symptom of narcolepsy and is a threat, if you perform potentially dangerous actions such as driving a car or cooking.
Individuals with narcolepsy often noted such symptoms as: blurry vision, inability to concentrate, memory loss and headaches. Children with this condition tend to lag behind peers in physical development and learning. Adults may not be able to perform daily duties at work.
If You experience any of these symptoms of narcolepsy and believe that these symptoms affect Your ability to drive, attend school, perform regular daily activities, or if these symptoms affect Your social activities and personal relationships, then You need to contact the experts in the clinic to confirm the diagnosis.
In somnological center specialist will carefully analyze your medical history and conduct full physical examination. If a doctor suspects narcolepsy, You will be able to pass the examination. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the disease usually conducted two tests: polysomnography with electroencephalogram (EEG) test and multiple sleep latency (MSLT test).
Symptoms of narcolepsy can usually control or ease so that persons suffering from the disease less often experience its symptoms and can lead a fairly normal life. If you are diagnosed with narcolepsy, Your treatment plan will include several components: medications, behavioral therapy, and organization of certain events in the environment of the patient.
The types, number and severity of your symptoms determines what medications to use to treat narcolepsy. Only the doctor may prescribe those drugs which can effectively control excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, hallucinations and sleep disturbances.
Treatment of Narcolepsy
Treatment of narcolepsy is likely to require not only the use of drugs, but also the organization of these events, which will help to significantly improve Your feelings of well-being.
- Follow a regular sleep and wakefulness. Go to bed and put your feet at approximately the same time each day.
- Could be useful regular short episodes of daytime sleep.
- Be careful when performing actions that may be dangerous, such as driving a car or cooking; try to plan your schedule to be vigilant at this time.
- Carefully follow the recommendations your doctor for the medication. Immediately inform him about any changes or problems with Your medications.
Difficult to control the narcolepsy, if Your family, friends and colleagues do not understand the essence of the disease. Daytime sleepiness can be mistaken for laziness, depression or loss of abilities. Signs of cataplexy or dreaming during wakefulness may be incorrectly viewed as a psychiatric problem. Understanding the symptoms of narcolepsy can relieve anxiety, shame, anger, depression.
So if You suffer from narcolepsy, then Your doctor or You should have a conversation with Your family members and to assure them that Your behavior is not intentional or mentally abnormal. Family support is an important step in the ability to cope with the disease.
Tell Your employer about the disease. Specific conditions at work will allow You to stay profitable servants. If narcolepsy prevents Your work, then consider other available sources of income. If narcolepsy is the suffering of Your child, make sure his teachers know about the disease. Small adjustments in the classroom can have a huge impact on Your child from the standpoint of the self and the ability to get a good education.
Prognosis of Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a disease that occurs over an extended period of time. The symptoms of this disease can vary in severity throughout a person’s life. Typically, the symptoms worsen with time or is stable. However, drowsiness may be a permanent condition that requires medication. In some cases, cataplexy and other symptoms may decrease or disappear with time. Various factors influence the symptoms which are observed the patient, including:
- irregular schedule of sleep and wakefulness,
- the use of substances that affect the Central Nervous System,
- infections of the brain,
- sleep disorders such as the syndrome of Sleep Apnea syndrome, periodic limb movements etc.
To improve the quality of life, reduce symptoms, you need to see your doctor regularly, follow a clear schedule of sleep and wakefulness, to apply the medications the doctor prescribes. A doctor specializing in sleep disorders, can recognize the symptoms of narcolepsy, to conduct examination and prescribe treatment.