Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder, which affects the part of the brain that regulates when to be asleep and when to be awake. Narcoleptics can fall asleep wherever, and whenever, even while working, cooking, or driving.
According to medical experts, the main narcolepsy symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy (loss of muscle control). Excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy connected to emotional state. Often, people have these symptoms when they are experiencing intense emotions such as laugh, sadness, surprise or frustration.
Narcolepsy affects about 1 in 2,000 people, and is thought to be a genetic disorder. Most people experience their first symptoms between the ages of 10 and 25. Even though narcolepsy is a lifelong condition, narcoleptics who make certain lifestyle changes and seek medical help can reduce symptoms, and in turn improve alertness and enjoy an active life.
Scientists have discovered that people with narcolepsy are lacking in hypocretin, a chemical in the brain that activates arousal and regulates sleep. Heredity appears to be a factor in narcolepsy, but environmental triggers may also play a strong role. Research is on to investigate these triggers.
Effects of narcolepsy
· Many activities, including driving, working, cooking, or walking can be dangerous if you fall asleep or lose muscle control unexpectedly.
· It can lead to depression and anxiety.
· Sudden sleep episodes are often found humorous to those not familiar with narcolepsy.
· Often spousal relationships may suffer
· People with narcolepsy may have problems remembering things and concentration.
According to health experts, commonly prescribed drugs for narcolepsy are stimulants, antidepressant and sodium oxybate. All medications have side effects and need doctor’s advice.
Behavioural changes are usually recommended along with medications to help a person to manage narcolepsy symptoms. Combining the various treatments can improve alertness and help you to control the effects of a narcoleptic episode.
Self-help for narcolepsy
· Schedule your sleep periods.
· Take a few brief, scheduled naps during daytime.
· Try to get a good night’s sleep during the same hours each night.
· Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Beverages containing these elements interfere with sleep when you need it.
· Exercise on a regular basis.