Overview

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime weariness with sudden bouts of sleep. It is a chronic disruption of a person’s sleep-wake cycles that significantly interferes with their daily activities. Narcolepsy can affect both males and females equally, usually between the ages of 7 to 25.

Usually, individuals will enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage after sleeping for 60 to 90 minutes. People with narcolepsy enter the REM cycle after 15 minutes or less of sleep. Entering this stage rapidly can cause the dream-like effects and muscle weakness of REM to appear during wakefulness.

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Narcolepsy Symptoms in Adults

Symptoms of narcolepsy can improve over time but can never fully be cured. The various signs of narcolepsy can include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): Everyone with narcolepsy struggles with EDS. The individual will feel perpetually tired, no matter the amount of sleep they get at night. While they may be alert at times, a wave of sleepiness can hit at any moment.
  • Cataplexy: This sudden loss of muscle tone accompanies certain narcoleptic episodes. Strong emotions like laughter, anger or excitement can trigger cataplexy. Attacks can range from mild to severe, resulting in a partial or complete body collapse. The two types of narcolepsy are identified by the presence or absence of this symptom — type 1 epilepsy is with cataplexy and type 2 is without.
  • Sleep paralysis: As a mix between REM and cataplexy, sleep paralysis can occur after the patient wakes up. This is a temporary condition causing an individual not to be able to move or speak, regardless of consciousness.
  • Hallucinations: Experiencing REM’s dream-like state while awake is the cause of most hallucinations with narcolepsy. These can also occur with sleep paralysis.

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What Causes a Narcoleptic Episode?

There isn’t one specific cause for narcolepsy, as everyone can be affected differently. However, those with type 1 narcolepsy usually have low levels of hypocretin, a chemical in the brain that regulates REM and wakefulness. Hypocretin levels are usually not affected in type 2 narcolepsy.

Family history is also a culprit in the development of narcolepsy. If your genetics show a history of narcolepsy, you could be 20 to 40 times more likely to also experience symptoms.

Narcolepsy Diagnosis and Treatment

Narcolepsy Diagnosis and Treatment

Narcolepsy Diagnosis and Treatment

One of the first symptoms doctors will look for is excessive daytime sleepiness. This can be measured with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. If you score high enough, you may be asked to undergo some sleep analyses like polysomnography or a multiple sleep latency test. Your sleep specialist will walk you through choosing the necessary tests.

Depending on the results, you may qualify for various narcolepsy treatment options. While this condition cannot be cured, you can manage it. Some treatments include:

  • Medications: These may include stimulants or antidepressants.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Sticking to a sleep schedule, taking scheduled naps and getting regular exercise can help your narcolepsy.
  • Coping and support options: These treatments may comprise counseling or support groups.

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Other common sleep conditions.

Reach out to Advanced Medical Care

If any of this information about narcolepsy relates to your situation, contact Advanced Medical Care today to schedule an appointment. Our neurologist and sleep specialist is committed to helping you find a solution, whether you have mild narcolepsy symptoms or a more severe case.

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