When people think of a person having narcolepsy, they frequently envision a person that falls asleep in a funny way. For example, some may think it is funny for a person living with the symptoms of narcolepsy to fall asleep while he or she is eating a bowl of soup. Although the cartoon like image may be entertaining, in reality it’s no laughing matter. Narcolepsy facts and information shows that a person can actually die from accidents that occur during these uncontrollable sleeping episodes. Information and facts on narcolepsy are readily available to anyone who wishes to learn more about this neurological sleep disorder. Knowing the facts about narcolepsy, even if you do not suffer with the symptoms, can possibly help someone who does.
The Facts and Information about Narcolepsy
- About three million people around the world have narcolepsy.
- There is no cure for narcolepsy, but there are treatments.
- The aspects of narcolepsy can be dangerous if left untreated.
- People with narcolepsy can’t control the episodes when they happen.
These four pieces of narcolepsy information are the beginning to helping people understand about this ailment. With this in mind, the four symptoms of narcolepsy that are suffered by the people living with this sleep sickness should be easier to understand. Note that it is extremely rare for one person to have all four of the following symptoms.
E.D.S. is excessive daytime sleepiness. This is the symptom that defines narcolepsy itself. This means a person can or will inadvertently fall asleep during times when they really need to stay awake.
Cataplexy is likely to be the most dangerous of the symptoms. People with cataplexy experience a sudden lack of muscle tone. This results in falls, accidents, and injuries that can occur to both the person with cataplexy and those in the immediate area.
Sleep paralysis is a symptom that isn’t like the others, because it can be an illness by itself without a person having narcolepsy. Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain disconnects from the body, leaving the person aware, but unable to react physically or verbally. It is experience while falling asleep or waking up. Hallucinations can happen during the time period of a sleep paralysis attack.
Hallucinations are a very common symptom found in people with sleep paralysis. Hallucinations are surreal occurrences that have people hearing and seeing things that are not really there. Although it’s not unheard of for a narcolepsy patient without sleep paralysis to have hallucinations, it doesn’t occur as often.
Information about Narcolepsy Medications
Although there is no known cure for narcolepsy in and of itself, there are medications to treat the symptoms. The types of medications are stimulants, antidepressants and sodium oxybate, which each have a variety of names and brands. Having a closer look at each type of medication can help a person to understand how each one works.
Stimulants are used to treat E.D.S. They serve to help the central nervous system, which in turn helps the narcolepsy patient stay awake and alert, thus making them able to function as needed in school or work. Common stimulants prescribed to narcolepsy patients include Provigil and Nuvigil.
Antidepressants are used in the treatment of patients with cataplexy and in worse cases, hallucinations. Antidepressants are usually combined with stimulants to achieve the desired effect. Common antidepressants prescribed to narcolepsy patients include Prozac and Zoloft, and the generics for these two, being Fluoxetine and Sertraline.
Sodium oxybate is a liquid that must be taken in small doses over a period of three or four hours. This drug helps to produce intense sleep and is used in the treatment of sleep paralysis, cataplexy and hallucinations. The best known type of sodium oxybate prescribed to narcolepsy patients is Xyrem.
There are older drugs known as tricyclic antidepressants, which were said to work wonders for narcolepsy patients with cataplexy, but due to the long list of side effect caused by these drugs, they are not commonly prescribed.
Other Facts on Narcolepsy Treatments
Narcolepsy patients often need more than just medication to help solve the sudden sleep attack issues that interfere with their everyday lives. These factors are commonly called lifestyle changes or therapy, in which the patient must strive to change habits for the betterment of his or her life. These changes can be separated into a list of “DO’s” and a list “DON’T’s”.
Non-Medical Narcolepsy Fact Sheet
- Know the symptoms of narcolepsy and its aspects
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet
- Have a scheduled bedtime and stick to it
- Take prescribed medications according to schedule
- Schedule daytime naps to lower chances of sleep attacks
- Involve friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members, make them all aware
- Wear a medical tag or bracelet that tells people of this condition
- Keep a journal or diary at all times to record any accidental sleep attacks or muscle weakness
- Stay confident in the treatment and medication
- Get counseling on narcolepsy.
- Do not use over the counter medications that have drowsiness as a side effect.
- Do not eat foods high in fat, sugar, or caffeine.
- Do not use illegal drugs, alcohol, or nicotine products.
- Do not work third shift jobs.
- Do not be embarrassed or afraid to let people know about your condition.
These lifestyle changes can be easily accomplished by anyone willing to try. These changes will help a person that has to live with the symptoms of narcolepsy to reach the goals he or she sets in life, whether it’s work or personal. As with any condition that may have serious aspects, getting the right counseling can greatly increase a person’s knowledge, as well as giving them a positive outlook or perspective on the matter.
Keeping up with the narcolepsy medications prescribed by doctors and combining these with the changes one has to make in their life will like ensuring adequate nighttime sleep, ease the symptomatic burdens of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. There is no cure, but no one has to live with this illness being untreated. Keep the physicians notified of any symptom changes that may occur and keep employers and friends, as well as family members informed on this condition.