Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by uncontrollable sleepiness and sleeping during the daytime. The cause of narcolepsy is still unknown, but it is apparent that conditions that cause insomnia, such as an unbalanced sleep life, can exacerbate narcolepsy. Studies have suggested that this condition is genetic and they also show that the problem has to do with the brain's ability to transition between waking and sleeping states, although no one understands yet what the problem exactly is. Episodes of narcolepsy are commonly preceded by periods of drowsiness and fatigue. These episodes commonly happen after a meal is consumed, but can happen at any time where there is no stimulation present. Once the episode ends, the patient awakens feeling refreshed, though another episode can come again at any time.

 

Narcolepsy is often accompanied by another condition called cataplexy, or uncontrollable muscle weakness typically brought about by strong emotional reactions. Weakness can be present during each episode as the patient switches from the sudden onset of slumber to the waking state. This is termed as sleep-paralysis. Patients can also experience hallucinations during this transition between waking and sleeping that seem very real and may be hard to shake.

What are Narcolepsy Symptoms and Treatments?

Symptoms of narcolepsy include an uncontrollable urge to sleep during the day (hypersomnia), constant drowsiness or fatigue, a feeling of being refreshed and awake immediately after each episode, hallucinations present before slumber, and unexpected and uncontrollable loss of muscle tone (cataplexy) that can be linked to laughter or anger. Narcolepsy may be similar in appearance to seizures. There is no way to successfully prevent the attacks of narcolepsy, but treatment of this condition may decrease the amount of episodes. Consult your primary physician on the best treatment for you.