Narcolepsy Treatment and Drugs

Narcolepsy is a sleep illness that affects the lives of over three million people in the world today. This illness knows no color or class. It is found in both the rich and the poor. Some of the aspects of narcolepsy can be dangerous to the patients suffering from it and the people around them. Treatment of narcolepsy is a must for anyone who is plagued by this illness.

Narcolepsy treatments come in many forms. Most people, who have narcolepsy sleep disorder, must undergo a comprehensive treatment plan in order to have a chance at a normal life. Ultimately, this means a very rigid schedule is necessary to keep sleep attacks at a minimum and medications are usually needed to control the symptoms of narcolepsy.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

The symptoms of narcolepsy can range in severity and they can cause a person much stress on a day to day basis. These can be as simple as someone forgetting to take the shopping list to the store with them after they very carefully wrote it. This person may not be a forgetful person, but narcolepsy has a way of causing such small dramas. The following is a list of narcolepsy symptoms and what can stem from them:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (E.D.S.) – This is when a person has trouble staying awake during the times when they need to be awake. They may fall asleep during a meeting at work, or in worse cases, while driving a vehicle.

  • Cataplexy- This is when a person suddenly a without warning loses muscle control. This can result in falls, which can leave a person seriously injured.

  • Sleep paralysis- This is when a person is aware of their surroundings, but can’t move or speak. This usually happens right when the person is going to sleep, or just as they begin to wake up.

  • Hallucinations- This is when a person sees or hears things that are not there. This is very common in people suffering with sleep paralysis.

Dangerous Aspects of Narcolepsy

Without proper treatment narcolepsy can get out of control and become dangerous to the person suffering with it, as well as the people around them. This can make every day, normal activity a real hassle to those involved, especially if the person with narcolepsy does not involve the people he or she knows by telling them about this condition. A person suffering from narcolepsy may be considered rude or lazy by those not knowing the whole story. This in turn can lead to embarrassment.Here is a list of the life altering aspects associated with narcolepsy symptoms:

  • Cooking can be a real hazard if the person falls asleep even for just a few seconds. This danger includes the stove catching fire and sharp knives causing injury.

  • Driving vehicles and/or operating machinery are already an activity that requires extreme attention in order for it to be safe. Someone with narcolepsy poses an increased risk for fatal injuries, especially if untreated.

  • Schooling can be drastically affected if a person with narcolepsy falls asleep during a lecture. Important information can be lost in just a few seconds.

  • If a person falls asleep on the job, the most likely disciplinary action is termination. A person with narcolepsy risks this situation on a daily basis. If the condition is made known, the employer may be lenient when dealing with situations like this.

Non Medication Narcolepsy Treatments

Treatment for narcolepsy starts at home with the person making a conscious decision to change his or her lifestyle. These changes, in necessity, range from somewhat important to very necessary, depending on the severity of the illness in the person. These changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Better sleeping habits
  • Avoid night time work
  • Scheduled naps during the day time
  • Involve friends, family, and co-workers
  • Improved diet
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol, nicotine, and over the counter medications that promote drowsiness
  • Keep a sleep journal handy at all times
  • Wear a medical bracelet to alert others of the condition
  • Seek counseling

These lifestyle changes combined with narcolepsy treatment drugs can provide anyone suffering with narcolepsy with a more normal life. These changes all must start with the person saying “I can change for the betterment of my life”.

Medical Treatments for Narcolepsy

Most of the time, narcolepsy is misdiagnosed due to the lack of medical history in a person. This could result in the prescribed medications being the wrong ones. Trial and error is usually the only thing that can be done in the beginning of narcolepsy drug treatment. Here is a list of types of drugs commonly used in the treatments of narcolepsy.

  • Stimulants- These are very common types of drugs used to promote wakefulness. Stimulants should be taken carefully, due to the side effects. Patients suffering from any psychiatric ailments should avoid stimulants.

  • Antidepressants- These are used to treat cataplexy and hallucinations due to sleep paralysis.

  • Sodium Oxybate- This is used to promote very peaceful sleep. This type of drug has to be taken carefully in several doses for it to work properly. It reduces E.D.S. and works to prevent cataplexy attacks.

Usually patients with narcolepsy need more than one of these types of drugs for the effects to be successful in their treatment. Narcolepsy drugs, as with any drugs, need time to build themselves up in the person for the treatment to be of benefit to him or her.

Narcolepsy Drug Treatment-Specific Drugs

Some common stimulants used to stimulate the central nervous system are:

  • Provigil
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta

Some common antidepressants used to treat cataplexy and hallucinations are:

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Sarafem
  • Effexor

Some older tricyclic antidepressants include:

  • Vivactil
  • Tofranil

These two drugs aren’t as common due to the side effect they produce, although they are considered by doctors to be very effective in controlling cataplexy.

The most common version of sodium oxybate is:

  • Xyrem

Xyrem has to be taken with absolute, extreme care. This drug has been called the “date rape drug” due to the intense deep sleep it can induce. This drug is also not like the other narcolepsy drugs, because it is a liquid instead of a pill. The doses have to be taken in multiples over a period of hours for Xyrem to work properly. Too much at one time can cause coma or even death.

Check with your local clinic for more information on how to manage insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and other hypersomnias.  There may be a guide available with narcolepsy health information or a list of available treatments and drugs.

Effects of Narcolepsy: What to Watch For

Narcolepsy is a type of hypersomnia disorder that affects one in two thousand people, and it presents with various symptoms in both men and women. There could be an extreme sleepiness during the daytime, which may last for a few minutes or even just for a few seconds. One might even experience muscle paralysis during emotional highs like laughter, sadness, excitement, and more. Such conditions can adversely affect the person’s personal, social and professional life.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

The symptoms of Narcolepsy may vary from person to person but the most common symptoms for everyone would be extreme day sleepiness and muscle weakness. The excessive sleep during the day time would be the first condition in any person suffering from Narcolepsy causing frequent sleep attacks which lasts for few minutes or more.

The muscle weakness is also another symptom that attacks the narcoleptics is caused by extreme emotional levels and may also cause difficulties in sleeping, drooping eyelids, nodding head, and struggling to move the hands or arms; it and may also cause muscle paralysis which may last for just two or more minutes.

The sleep paralysis is also another symptom but all narcoleptic victims might not experience this. Hallucinations in the form of vivid dreams may occur while sleeping or awake or dozing. Though this is real, it can be a scary experience for many. Certain people have disturbing sleeping patterns at night due to frequent bouts of sleep in the morning.

Automatic behaviors can occur commonly in narcoleptics since they do not realize their actions of which they are completely unaware. These people tend to forget their automatic behaviors very often. In some cases, the symptoms may be very mild whereas in certain cases it tends to be really severe.

Effects of Narcolepsy

Falling asleep in inappropriate times or while in the midst of an activity like driving, working, cooking, eating, walking could be highly dangerous. Because of such unexpected sleep attacks, there may be fatal accidents or injuries. Victims of narcolepsy also experience stress and depression, lack of concentration, problems in their workplace or at school and can even suffer from an impaired memory.

These could be threatening to the normal being of a person, as the nature of the attacks is highly unpredictable. Victims might suffer from sleep-bouts in their school or at work, or anywhere in a public place which would ultimately cause a loss of self-esteem and confidence. It could also result in problems within the family or with co-workers or employers.
Since there is always a sign of laziness, fatigue and disinterest towards things, people might tend to think that Narcoleptics are simply lazy. Since there is no complete cure for this disorder, the victims need to carry these problems for a lifetime. However, with proper medical guidance, the symptoms can easily be greatly reduced.

Usually, people who suffer from Narcolepsy are at a greater risk of accidents at any point of time!  Thus, it is always advisable to stop stepping out of the house if you experience any symptom of excessive day sleepiness or fatigue. Due to excessive sleep in the morning, these people might remain very troubled and drowsy throughout the day, while suffering from lack of sleep at night.
Due to poor sleeping patterns, it could lead to poor attention span or people might even struggle a lot to concentrate on things – all these would adverse their social life. Also many narcoleptics complain of headaches, which might lead to migraines. Also due to the low levels of Hypocretin fluid in their brain, there would be an increase in the appetite levels resulting in over eating and obesity.

Treatment for Narcolepsy

As far as treatment of Narcoleptics is concerned, there is no cure for such disorders; however, affected people can change their lifestyle to reduce the symptoms and lead a better life. Apart from regular medications, Narcoleptics can follow several tips to make their lives easier.
Usually, stimulants are given by the doctors to keep them awake and alert during the day but there may be certain side effects to these drugs, such as nervousness and palpitation. The Antidepressants are also used for treating the sleep paralysis or the cataplexy but they too have their side effects.
It is always advisable to avoid heavy meals, alcohol or caffeine while under medication. Additionally, patients should maintain a healthy diet along with a good exercise to help improve their physical as well as mental health. Following these tips can drastically reduce the signs and symptoms of Narcolepsy over a course of time.

Living with Narcolepsy

Since Narcolepsy is a lifelong condition and the chances of a complete cure is very rare, so you should learn to reduce the symptoms. Try to find a quiet and peaceful place to rest if you get frequent sleep attacks during the day. Make sure your home or the atmosphere you stay is safe and protected, as your unpredicted sleep patterns might be dangerous for the security of your house and family members.

Get the help of your doctors, friends or family members, and never forget to take medicines on a regular basis. In case, you are driving, take your family, friends, or co-workers along with you as a safety measure. Narcoleptics can work any type of job, but they should be always extra careful about their place of work. It is quite important that all your friends, family members or your co- workers are aware of your disorder – this is to help maximize safety no matter where you may be.

It may be quite embarrassing if there are frequent sleep attacks or tiredness during the day, but do not let this daunt your zeal for living life to the fullest. Try not to suffer from low self-esteem or feel depressed about your medical problem – there are many like you and they are leading a happy life. Learn more about this disorder to try to minimize your symptoms though a combination of medicine, lifestyle changes, and plenty of exercise and restful time.


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