What is Narcolepsy? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

Some people have the condition of falling into sleeping at any time and any place. Today, we’ll discuss what is narcolepsy; its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Narcolepsy? 

Narcolepsy is a rare neurological condition that impacts the nervous system of a person; it would abnormal sleeping in inappropriate places impacting the quality of life of a person. According to an estimate, this sleeping condition impacts roundabout one in every 2000 people.

People with the narcoleptic condition would start exhibiting symptoms from 7 to 25 years of age. Often, people don’t recognize the condition immediately and that’s why they misdiagnose it. Typically, it begins in the mid of teen years. Its main symptoms are poor fragmented sleep at night, a great urge to fall into sleep, sleep attacks, and drowsiness during the day.

Often, it causes losing control over your muscles temporarily and unexpectedly, and you can call it cataplexy. When it happens, people mistake it for a seizure, especially among children. However, it is not a dangerous disease, but its sleeping episodes could put you in life-threatening situations, injuries, and accidents.

People with the narcoleptic condition would have difficulty in developing and maintaining relationships, performing well in school, and trouble maintaining their careers or jobs. It is because of high episodes of sleeping during the daytime.

Types of Narcolepsy 

Narcolepsy has got two main types and they’re as follows;

Type-I

It’s a very common type of narcoleptic condition and it comprises cataplexy symptoms like losing control over your muscles suddenly. People in this type-I would experience intense episodes of sleepiness and cataplexy during the daytime. It’s because the brain has a low level of a protein called hypocretin. Sometimes, hypocretin also goes by the name of orexin.

Type-II

It’s a type where you don’t experience the symptoms of cataplexy. Usually, people with the type-II condition have normal hypocretin levels in their brains.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy 

Some of the main symptoms of narcolepsy are as follows;

Automatic Behaviors

They fall into sleep while performing an activity like driving or eating. People with narcoleptic conditions would keep on doing the same activity for a few minutes without realizing the fact that they’re even doing it because they’ve fallen into sleep.

Fragmented Sleep

People with narcoleptic conditions sleep a lot during the day and it is difficult for them to have a deep sleep and stay sleeping at night.

Hallucination

People with the narcoleptic condition would experience vibrant dreams frequently. Usually, they occur when they’re going to wake up or fall asleep.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is the incapability of a person to sleep or move while walking, sleeping, or falling into sleep. The episodes of sleep paralysis would last for a few minutes or seconds. Sleep paralysis is like paralysis during REM sleep. It won’t impact your capability to breathe or make eye movements.

Poor Managed REM Sleep

REM sleep is a stage in sleep when you have got vibrant dreams while losing muscle tone. Usually, it begins roundabout after 90 minutes of falling into sleep. The REM sleeping episode could occur at any time of the day among people with the narcoleptic condition. Often, it happens 15 minutes after falling asleep.

Cataplexy

Cataplexy is a state when you lose control over your muscles, and it ranges from drooping eyelids to the complete falling of the body. Laughing with extreme emotions like fear and excitement, and triggers cataplexy. It would occur at different times a day and it varies from person to person. Sometimes, the cataplexic symptoms would occur in later stages; the antidepressant medicines would suppress its symptoms.

Sleepiness at Daytime

Every person with a narcoleptic condition would experience an intense episode of sleepiness during the day. You can call it EDS (excessive daytime sleepiness). The EDS would make it difficult for you to function properly in your routine life.

Causes of Narcolepsy 

Researchers don’t know the exact and precise causes of narcolepsy. Many people with the type-I narcoleptic condition have got a lower amount of hypocretin (protein type) in their brain. The main function of hypocretin is to manage your sleep-wake cycles. Many researchers believe that the lower hypocretin level would cause the development of the type-I condition.

Researchers also think that the lower hypocretin level is a hereditary deficiency along with the immune system that would damage the healthy cells; it would develop narcolepsy. Some of the other factors that would cause to develop of this condition are as follows;

  • Infection
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Brain trauma
  • Stress

Diagnosis of Narcolepsy 

In order to diagnose narcolepsy, your doctor would suggest the following tests and guidelines to monitor your sleep pattern;

  • PSG (Polysomnography) test would require you to sleep in a medical facility under the observation of doctors with electrodes attached to your head; it’s to evaluate your brain activity
  • Epworth sleepiness scale is a questionnaire check in order to know your sleep under various circumstances
  • Maintaining a diary of your sleep pattern for a week, your doctor would suggest
  • Actigraphy is a device that you put on your wrist in order to monitor your sleep pattern at home
  • MSLT (multiple sleep latency test) is a test that you take when you fall into sleep to check how quickly you enter into REM sleep
  • Your doctor would collect a sample of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid)to measure your hypocretin level in the brain. It’s a clinical procedure, usually performed by a specialist.

Treatment of Narcolepsy 

Medications

Some of the main medicines that your doctor would suggest to treat the symptoms of narcolepsy are as follows;

  • Solriamfetol
  • Pitolisant
  • Oxybates
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • SSRIs
  • SNRIs
  • Alerting agents

Lifestyle Changes

You should avoid using nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine in your daily life; develop a habit of eating smaller meals often rather than eating a big meal at once. Activity, you should control your sleeping schedule, and schedule your napping time. You should perform exercises regularly and follow the meal plan.

Conclusion: What is Narcolepsy? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is narcolepsy; its symptoms, causes, and treatment; we have realized that the narcoleptic condition could badly disturb your life. If you’re experiencing its symptoms, then you should consult with the doctor as soon as you can.