Signs of Narcolepsy: Overview

Narcolepsy is a strange neurological disorder with conditions of excessive sleepiness during the daytime; it is a condition that also causes muscle weakness. This disorder generally begins at the age of 15 to 25 years and can cause Cataplexy (muscle weakness), Hallucinations (vivid dreams occurring while asleep) and sleep paralysis (where the sufferer cannot move or speak, and which might last for few minutes after the sleep attack).

Narcolepsy Diagnosis

Narcolepsy is a rare and a complex neurological disorder that is commonly misdiagnosed. A doctor will assess the symptoms of this problem very easily by conducting certain laboratory tests as well as going through the patients’ history. A person who has this disorder can fall asleep frequently irrespective of the time and place.

Generally, an overnight polysomnogram is used for monitoring the person during the sleep and it also records the necessary details about the patient’s brain waves, eye movements, body position, heart rate, breathing or the muscle activity. A genetic blood test would also be taken if needed.

The multiple sleep latency test is usually taken from the patient in the day times. The other tests include Hypocretin test which tests the Hypocretin fluid present in the spinal cord using a lumbar puncture. When there are low levels of this fluid, people get Narcolepsy which promotes wakefulness.

It can be difficult to diagnose this condition if the signs and symptoms of Narcolepsy are very mild. At times, it might take even ten to fifteen years to diagnose since the symptoms get pronounced gradually. Thus, based on the patient’s family and medical history, laboratory test results, and by physical examination, the doctors could diagnose Narcolepsy in an individual.

Narcolepsy Risk Factors

The actual root cause of Narcolepsy is not known, however scientists have identified that it occurs by a genetic mutation, which results in abnormal sleeping patterns. The genetic cells control the brain chemicals that are responsible for sleeping cycles. Certain scientists proved that Narcolepsy occurs due to the presence of low levels of the Hypocretin (fluid that surrounds the spinal cord).

The Hypocretin fluid plays a major role in regulating the wakefulness and the sleeping patterns in an individual. Thus, there are numerous factors like hereditary, infections, brain injuries, auto immune disorders or low levels of histamine that contribute to interact between REM sleeping disturbances and the neurological dysfunction.

Many genetic factors largely contribute to the causes of Narcolepsy and around eight to ten percent of people having this disorder tend to have other victims in the family. However, it is not be the only factor but is usually combined with other immune problems. Sometimes even the environmental toxic substances like pesticides, weed killers and other chemicals contribute to the causes of Narcolepsy.

This neurological disorder affects both men and women, and usually the symptom starts to appear from the teenage but it’s quite rare to be found in children under five years of age. This disorder is considered to be a lifelong condition, but some narcoleptics can change their lifestyle with proper guidance and thus greatly improve the way that the condition presents in their day to day lives.

Narcolepsy Symptoms

Usually, the Narcolepsy disorder may be diagnosed at a very later stage with the symptoms such as cataplexy, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, micro sleep, and night time wakefulness, rapid entry into REM sleep and many other signs and symptoms.

The most common symptoms among them are cataplexy (muscle weakness) and extreme day time sleepiness. The patients affected with Narcolepsy tend to get these signs and symptoms when they experience deep emotional state of happiness, frustration, sadness or excitement. The symptoms may vary from person to person.

Cataplexy is a muscle weakness where there is a sudden loss of muscle tone in their body which is normally triggered by strong emotions. Hallucinations are vivid dreams that may be very sensual or frightening which occurs when they are awaken or at sleep.

Sleep Paralysis is a condition where the person is unable to move the body or unable to speak at the stage of awakening. The Micro sleep is a very short sleep that occurs less than five minutes when the person is involved in an activity.

Nighttime wakefulness is a condition where people are continuously awake the whole night, complete with fast heart rates and intense alertness. The Rapid entry into REM sleep is a condition where the person immediately reaches this stage once he falls asleep but usually it might take about ninety minutes for most of the people.

These symptoms might be either mild or even severe depending on the individual. There would be an automatic behavior of the persons affected with this disorder like falling asleep while eating or in the midst of any other activity.

Narcolepsy – Stages of the Disease

Usually, each patient affected by the Narcolepsy disorder has different symptoms that vary from person to person. The various stages involved in this disorder occur in various aspects of life. Most commonly, the physical well being of a person gets affected as he might unexpectedly fall asleep in the midst of activities like working, walking, driving, and cooking, which could be quite dangerous.

The mental health of a person is affected, which leads to depression, anxiety or stress. This can affect the social and professional relationships as well. One may think that the people affected by Narcolepsy are lazy by nature but this is not so. Due to extreme tiredness and sleepiness, impotency and low sex drive is often experienced by the victims of Narcolepsy. Even the memory and the attentive power is affected which results in forgetting things frequently.

Conclusion

There is no cure for the Narcolepsy disorder but the people affected by it can bring in some significant changes to their lifestyle and lead a better life. With proper medical help and guidance, patients can improve their alertness and can enjoy an active life by reducing their symptoms.

Signs of Narcolepsy- What Doctors Look For

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that has been found in an estimated three million people in the world today. To have a chronic sleep disorder means that the signs and symptoms will gradually get worse if left untreated. In this day and age there is hope for anyone suffering with a sleep disorder, as scientists have developed many types of medications to treat any symptom associated with narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy can, however, go misdiagnosed or even undiagnosed due to lack of information on the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy. This can cause a narcoleptic person to have health issues that can be truly frightening. Narcolepsy symptoms should be reported to the doctor immediately. This means that anyone that suspects even the slightest sign of narcolepsy should get more information on the matter by visiting their local sleep clinic.

Narcolepsy Signs and Symptoms

Narcolepsy has a host of symptoms that can leave a person feeling dreadful. These symptoms can be misdiagnosed due to similarity to other ailments, leaving the patient without the proper medication and other therapies needed to cope with narcolepsy. The symptoms and signs of narcolepsy are:

  • E.D.S. or excessive daytime sleepiness. This is the most common complaint by people with narcolepsy. E.D.S. is exactly as it sounds, which is the feeling/need for daytime sleep and the inability to control it. E.D.S. is often made far worst if the person also has insomnia.

  • Cataplexy is probably the most dangerous symptom related to narcolepsy. Cataplexy is the sudden and uncontrollable loss of muscle control. This is especially dangerous if it happens when the person is driving a car or operating machinery. Usually a person with cataplexy will be walking and suddenly fall down due to the loss of muscle tone, which can result in injury. This can happen any time, day or night with warning.

  • Sleep paralysis is a sort of disconnection of the brain from the body. This can happen when a person is falling sleep, which is called hypnogogic, or when they are entering R.E.M. sleep or waking up, which is called hypnopompic. When this happens it leaves the person totally aware of everything in the room, but leaves them unable to speak or move. Usually hallucinations of a very frightening nature ensue during episodes of sleep paralysis. People experiencing sleep paralysis may not necessarily have narcolepsy, although it is a symptom of narcolepsy.

  • Hallucinations are when someone hears voices or sees things that aren’t really there. These visions can be extremely real to the person, which can cause terror to fill their mind. Hallucinations are commonly associated with sleep paralysis, but there have been cases of narcolepsy with hallucinations and no sleep paralysis.

  • Insomnia is another narcolepsy sign that can be independent of the disorder itself. Insomnia is the inability to sleep well during the nighttime, or when a person falls asleep, but is unable to remain asleep, causing episodes of daytime sleepiness.

There are other narcolepsy signs that are secondary to these primary symptoms. Usually the medications and therapies will work to solve these secondary signs, but only if these are paid attention to and properly diagnosed. The secondary signs of narcolepsy are:

  • Irritability
  • Sleepwalking
  • Forgetfulness
  • Clumsiness
  • Poor performance in work or school
  • Friendships or personal relationships suffer
  • Depression

With the proper treatment, narcolepsy and signs and symptoms associated with it can be managed effectively. If a person has the least idea that they may have narcolepsy, then they should act immediately by going to a sleep clinic or to their family doctor.

Narcolepsy Treatment Options

Narcolepsy symptoms can be treated by medication and therapies in the home, which most call lifestyle changes. These changes will have a positive effect on the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy, lessening the stress and strain that people go through when incidents arise. When combined with the proper medication, narcolepsy patients have been known in some cases to live practically incident free. This gives them a new lease on life by allowing them to live daily life like everyone else. These lifestyle changes are:

  • Maintain a nutritious diet
  • Schedule changes for better sleep management
  • Planned daytime naps each lasting about 10 minutes
  • Tell employers, friends, family, co-workers about this condition
  • Seek counseling and support groups
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and illegal drugs
  • Take all medications as prescribed by doctor
  • Write down all episodes and incidents that occur concerning this condition

With all of these changes in mind, let’s look at the list of medications which should be added to them. These include:

  • Stimulants help to promote a better working central nervous system. Stimulants are usually prescribed for the treatment of E.D.S. and cataplexy. Commonly prescribed stimulants are Nuvigil and Provigil. Patients with a medical history of depression or psychiatric issues should not take stimulants, as they have been known to produce intense suicidal thinking.

  • Antidepressants are usually prescribed to treat depression, but in narcolepsy patients it’s a common treatment for cataplexy and hallucinations associated with sleep paralysis. Common antidepressants used to treat narcolepsy symptoms are Prozac and Zoloft.

  • Sodium oxybate is a drug that is unlike the other drugs used in the treatment of narcolepsy. Sodium oxybate is a liquid that, when taken correctly, provides the patient with a time of peaceful sleep. This drug must be taken very strictly as prescribed to avoid accidental overdose. The best known version of this drug is Xyrem.

As with all medications, medical science works to create better versions of the medicines we use, which can cause older medications to be discontinued. The reason for this research is to provide people with a better product that has the least amount of side effects. Such is the case with the older versions of antidepressants called tricyclics. The list of side effects far outweighed the benefits of these drugs, causing them to lose popularity, although they were said to be amazing when used to treat cataplexy.

Narcolepsy: A Few words on the disease

It is often seen that at many people fall asleep during the day and that also on a frequent basis. This may be a result of tiredness or exhaustion and there is nothing abnormal in it. However, there are people who experience sleepy phases on a regular basis – according to medical science, they are victims of Narcolepsy. In short, Narcolepsy is a severe sleeping disorder. You yourself don’t know when and where you will fall asleep. However, there are numerous options to beat the attack and get rid of Narcolepsy.

The telltale signs of Narcolepsy

Frequent sleep attacks are the prime symptom of narcolepsy. Even when you sleep peacefully at night, you can experience an attack. In case of severe narcolepsy, people often fall asleep involuntarily. They don’t get time to think where they are and what they are doing before falling asleep. Not only does this result in embarrassment in a victim’s professional life but their personal life too get messy. Though the attack stays from few seconds to thirty minutes, it can be enough to damage the social lives of victims. Most of the narcoleptics wakes up at night. According to research many of them can’t even determine the exact time gap between their sleeping phases and the time for which they remain awake. To explain the particular symptom it is to say that they go through a rich REM stage while sleeping. Normal people also go through the stage, but not so frequently as Narcoleptics. There are other symptoms of Narcolepsy. But these may or may not be observed in every Narcoleptics. Cataplexy, Sleep paralysis and Hypnologic dreams are some of them.

According to recent reviews, 350,000 of Americans suffer from Narcolepsy, whereas only 50,000 have been diagnosed properly. If the scenario remains same in the coming years, then Narcolepsy will come into the category of the most devastating disease like Parkinson’s disease and others. We know that Narcolepsy symptoms are experienced mostly during the day time. Adolescents or adults are more vulnerable to the disease when compared with the infants. Actually, it is very rare to find victims below the age of 5 years. Irrespective of the age, a proper diagnosis of Narcolepsy can save anyone from its dangerous effects.

A PSG, or polysonogram, is a overnight sleep recording test is the proper diagnosis method for Narcolepsy. Information from this test assists sleep experts in prescribing the exact remedy for their patients. So if you are experiencing any of the symptoms then consult your doctor and go for a test.

But how do you get rid of this embarrassing disease?

If you have gone through a proper diagnosis, it is not very difficult to find whether you have Narcolepsy or not. Prior to going for any meditation or other therapies, try to bring some changes to your lifestyle. It is known that in addition to medication, an organized and scheduled lifestyle proves effective in providing long-term relief to Narcolepsy patients. Stress as well as work related pressure would always be there but still you have to learn how to manage them without affecting your health. Six hours of sleep is a must if you want to avoid Narcolepsy symptoms. To sleep tight at night, take your dinner at least five hours before going to bed. Try to sleep in a dark and noise-free room. Narcolepsy patients can’t sleep for longer hours at a stretch and tend to wake up frequently. If you experience such breaks in your sleep then wait for twenty minutes as you might feel sleepy again or you can practice reading books – a sure shot method to exercise your eyes and brains and eventually fall asleep.

Do you feel hungry when you wake up at night? Avoid this habit right now as it can result in complete sleep loss. Nocturnal eating habits can greatly affect existing Narcolepsy symptoms. Try to change the habit as soon as you can. Else you will grow flabby and there will be no chance to cure the narcolepsy symptom. Eating during the night can be a difficult habit to get rid of, but definitely not impossible. Older people are facing this problem more than the younger ones. Due to irregular lifestyle and ill practices like cigarette and alcohol consumption, they tend to experience sleepless nights and eventually can become a victim of Narcolepsy or can exacerbate existing symptoms of the condition.

Medical facts regarding Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is not a curable disease. Research in the field of Narcolepsy has resulted in the successful invention of different stimulants and anti depressants to keep Narcolepsy patients awake and active. Modafinil is one of the stimulants that help the Narcoleptics lead normal life like others. In case of old stimulants, people used to get addicted to it sooner. In case of this stimulant, the risk is lesser. This particular stimulant is free of side effects. Thus, if you want faster result, then opt for Modafinil. Or you can avail the antidepressants like sodium oxybate or fluexotine.

However, when medication is used, there is always a risk of side effects. Most of the stimulants and antidepressants are high power medicines that affect the nervous system. Soon it becomes a practice of maintenance and habit instead of a true cure. After a certain time, a patient finds it difficult to sleep at night or start the day without popping a pill. To avoid all these hazards, it is better to go for natural or holistic treatments. Natural treatments include exercise or yoga therapy. Even regular walks can help you to sleep peacefully at night. Holistic treatment calms the mind. If you have strong body and a calm mind, you can easily combat a disease, including Narcolepsy.

There are many things to know about Narcolepsy, which researchers are still working upon. It is still not clear why only a few people experience this severe attack. Experts are still in search of the primary elements that cause the disease. Once it is done, we are sure to find a permanent cure for this dangerous disease.

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