There are around three million men and women around the world that are living with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes people to uncontrollably sleep when they need to be awake. For those living with narcolepsy and those directly involved with them, managing narcolepsy is not always easy. Narcolepsy awareness could serve to help those not directly affected by narcolepsy to better understand those who are.
The management of narcolepsy comes in many forms that must be added together to be truly effective. Awareness of these medications and treatment plans is imperative for those who have narcolepsy to control the symptoms and achieve a more meaningful life. For those without narcolepsy, all information on these treatments needs to be considered when dealing with a person with this ailment.
Awareness on Narcolepsy Symptoms
Medications are used to clinically treat the symptoms of narcolepsy, although medical experts have yet to find a cure. The types of medications used to manage narcolepsy symptoms are based on which symptoms the patient has. The primary symptoms associated with narcolepsy are:
E.D.S. (excessive daytime sleepiness) – The feeling of extreme tiredness during the daytime which culminates in lack of awareness and sudden sleep attacks. This is the most common symptom of narcolepsy.
Cataplexy – The sudden and unexpected loss of muscle control, which can result in falls and injury. This symptom is also very common in narcolepsy patients.
Sleep Paralysis – This is when a person’s brain disconnects itself from the body, leaving the person in a state of awareness, but without the ability to move or speak. Usually hallucinations of an extremely intense nature occur when the person is having an episode of sleep paralysis.
Hallucinations – The hearing and/or seeing of things that are not there. A common symptom found in patients with sleep paralysis, but not completely unheard of in patients without sleep paralysis.
A secondary list of narcolepsy symptoms is necessary to give people a full understanding of what people living with this chronic ailment goes through on a daily basis.
Narcolepsy medications come in several forms and types. These medications types include:
- Sodium Oxybate is commonly used as insomnia treatments and to treat cataplexy and sleep paralysis.
- Stimulants are used to promote alertness and are commonly prescribed to treat E.D.S.
- Antidepressants are used to treat patients suffering from hallucinations and cataplexy.
As with all medications, each of these types has several different brands including generic names. Medications should be taken as directed and combined with other therapies such as daily routine changes and a support group. Narcolepsy management is not an easy undertaking, but with the support of friends, family and colleagues a narcoleptic patient will have an easier time coping with the issues that arise in their daily lives.
Management of Narcolepsy
The changing of daily living routines is an important aspect in the treatment of narcolepsy. These changes, which help to serve as an advisory guideline, can help a person suffering with the symptoms of narcolepsy to eliminate some, if not all, of the stress that accompanies this ailment. These lifestyle changes include:
- Health awareness/improved eating habits
- Schedule changes
- Informing everyone about the condition
- Saying no to illegal drug use and alcohol consumption
- Avoiding activities that may cause accidents
- Wearing medical dog tags or an alert bracelet
- Attend counseling
- Read info on a self-help sleep aid, an advisory board/message board and live support, and/or the criteria of narcolepsy management
Awareness on narcolepsy is a responsibility of the patient as well as everyone involved in the life of a person who has this disease. These guidelines on management and any update of the guidelines can help to increase the awareness and management of narcolepsy. Anyone can become involved by joining the A.S.A. (American Sleep Association).
Narcolepsy Awareness Week
Every year the first week of December is dedicated to narcolepsy and awareness of sleep disorders, and is sponsored by the American Sleep Association. This week long, nationwide event promotes narcolepsy awareness and informs the general public about everything that people with narcolepsy go through in daily living.
Living Hell: A Woman’s Fight with Narcolepsy
When she was twenty years old, Mary started to have trouble concentrating at work, as well as in her college classes. Her boss at the time, Bob, began to notice a decreased overall performance, which led him to believe that Mary was either lazy or involved in illegal drug use. Showing his concern, he decided to question her about her life outside of work.
Mary explained that she didn’t know what was going on, and she took an oath on the Bible that she was not on drugs. She told Bob that her grades were suffering alongside her work performance. Her main complaints were that she couldn’t seem to stay focused and that she was always extremely tired. Bob suggested that she see a doctor immediately, and that her remaining employed there depended on it. He did this not to be rude, but out of concern for her health.
After the doctor visit and many more tests, Mary was diagnosed with narcolepsy and nighttime insomnia. She was horrified to hear this news, because up until then she had thought narcolepsy was just a funny joke. The physician at the sleep clinic prescribed antidepressants to treat Mary’s depression and sodium oxybate to help her sleep at night.
She reported to Bob after the diagnosis just as they had agreed upon. Bob suggested that she also seek counseling or a support group to help her cope with her condition. To show his concern and friendship, Bob agreed to attend these groups with her. It took little to show Bob how important narcolepsy awareness is. After at least one convincing class, Mary decided to involve everyone she knew in her struggle against narcolepsy.