Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder of sleep regulation, characterized by overwhelming and excessive periods of sleepiness during the daytime, which can last from 10 to 20 minutes. Such periods of sleepiness are mostly sudden, brief; they take place without any special warning, may repeat during the day and, as a rule, are irresistible. In other words, a person, who suffers from the symptoms of narcolepsy, is under the danger of sudden attacks of sleepiness during the daytime, even after good night’s sleep, and may fall asleep in any time and any place, like at times of walking, driving, eating, etc. Narcolepsy affects normal functioning of organism, because an individual can not control own sleep and awake condition. The hardest forms of narcolepsy are cataplexy, which means the loss of muscle tone, and hallucinations, frequently accompanying sudden attacks of narcoleptic sleep.
The symptoms of narcolepsy are, first of all, physical overwhelming and excessive sleeping attacks during the daytime. On early stage of disorder they may happen as a result of boredom, when an individual is motionless and in peace. But within the time, the other symptoms may occur, one by one or developing in combination. The most common other symptoms of narcolapsy are: sleep paralysis (inability to move or to talk, when about to fall asleep or right after waking up), automatic behavior (doing daily routine without full awareness), hypnagogic hallucinations (very realistic and sometimes scary visions and dreams, accompanying sleep attacks) and cataplexy (sudden losses of muscle control of the body, which may vary from slight weakness to total loss of control, and frequently be followed by loud reaction of laughter, scream or anger). These symptoms, especially cataplexy and EDS, may seriously damage a person’s personal, social, and professional life and limit activities.
The causes of narcolepsy have not been discovered clearly yet. Numerous medical researches and experiments, supported by government and National Institutes of Health are trying to find out, what the reasons of this disorder are, and how to detect and effectively treat it. Medical scientists are likely to suggest that this disorder can be connected with biochemical defects of central nervous system, resulting in disturbance of REM sleep. Specialists have only discovered that there are some irregularities in those different parts of the brain, which are regulating REM sleep and seem to be the most involved into symptom development. Blood pressure is also a key-factor, especially for the cases of cataplexy, because losses of muscle tone are strictly linked with blood pressure changes. Besides, as narcolepsy often happens among the members of a whole family, heredity and genetic inclination can be also important points.
Diagnosis of narcolepsy includes physical examination and studying of sleeping process. There are some ways of narcolepsy treatments, like using of antidepressants and drugs from the group of central nervous system stimulators, and also physical or psychological exercises. Stimulators and anti-depressants, like Ritalin, Adderall or Provigil, can be prescribed to improve alertness and control muscle paralysis. Besides, specialists may recommend making planned short daily sleeps, which may help to overcome sudden sleep attacks. Programs of combined treatments can be effective and result in considerable improvements, though complete recovery is hardly possible. Narcolepsy treatments are strictly individual and depends on the intensity of the symptoms, so it may take weeks or years to achieve some positive results.
25 of every 100 thousand people in the United States (that is about 125,000 individuals) suffer different levels of symptoms of narcolepsy. They may occur in both women and men of any age, though its symptoms can be mostly found in teenagers or young adults of early twenties. This disorder is life-long and requires some thorough narcolepsy treatment, preferably medical one rather than alternative or natural. For those, who suffer this disorder it is important to learn more about the causes of narcolepsy. There are special support groups to help patients and their families to cope with the effects and consequences of this disorder. An abundance of curative, scientific and educational programs from different narcolepsy organizations are available.