Narcolepsy is a condition in which the brain is unable to regulate the sleep-wake cycles normally. Prevalence is thought to be less than one percent of the population. Onset tends to occur in adolescent to young adulthood years, however symptoms can appear later in life too.
While narcolepsy affects both sexes, it does have a slightly higher risk in men. Research also suggests that there is a genetic component to narcolepsy.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
Some symptoms of narcolepsy include:
Another symptom of narcolepsy may include hypnogogic hallucinations or experiencing images, sounds, or sensations that are not really present. This usually occurs as the person is falling asleep or waking up. Often hallucinations produce a feeling of dread or fear, and can occur in conjunction with sleep paralysis.
Understanding REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep is important in narcolepsy. REM is the dreaming portion of sleep and usually occurs after the first 90 min of sleep. For a narcoleptic patient, REM can occur much sooner.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of narcolepsy should be done by a trained sleep professional. A complete medical and family history is important in the diagnosis of any disorder. Be prepared to answer questions concerning these areas. It's also important to be aware of any particular sleep habits and/or any symptoms you may be experiencing. It might be helpful to keep a sleep diary for two weeks prior to your appointment. Record all pertinent details concerning your sleep patterns and any symptoms. A sleep study may be needed for a definitive diagnosis to be made.
Treatment of narcolepsy can help reduce symptoms and hopefully create a better quality of life. While medication may be prescribed by your doctor, lifestyle adjustments might also be useful in helping you cope with your symptoms. Listed below are some suggestions:
Narcolepsy support groups can offer a network of support, empathy, and learning from those who know what it's like to live with this disorder. The references listed below have resources to help you find a local support group.
Treatment of narcolepsy can help reduce symptoms and create a better quality of life.
While medication may be prescribed by your doctor, lifestyle adjustments may also be useful in helping you cope with your symptoms.
When driving, be aware of when your nacrolepsy symptoms are occurring and always pull off the road to find a safe place to take a nap.