Sleep is very important to keep the body running properly. Falling asleep once you land on your bed after a long day at work is normal, but what if you are dozing off in places you should be awake?

In Narcolepsy, the boundary between the awake state and the sleeping state is very blurred. Rather than reaching the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage gradually, a person with Narcolepsy immediately enters the REM stage in their sleep cycle.

This is a neurological disorder in which our brain is unable to control our sleep-wake cycles. It involves the feeling of chronic daytime sleepiness and episodes in which the victim can fall asleep unexpectedly at anytime. In fact, more than half the people suffering from Narcolepsy report that they have fallen asleep while driving.

Narcolepsy is one of the most common sleep disorders, with 1 in 2000 people affected by it.

The Symptoms for Narcolepsy includes:

– Excessive Daytime Sleeping (EDS): EDS is a situation in which there is a persistent feeling of sleepiness and involuntary episodes of falling asleep.

– Sleep Paralysis: People with Narcolepsy experience paralysis where they are aware of their surroundings but are unable to move because the body is still in REM sleep.

– Cataplexy: Cataplexy is the inability to move muscles or speak. It is like sleep paralysis, but it can occur anytime during the waking period. Some factors that can trigger it are laughter, fear, surprise, or similar intense emotions. 60-70% of people with Narcolepsy have also been diagnosed with Cataplexy.

– Hallucinations: People with Narcolepsy can have vivid dream-like hallucinations and episodes in which their visions seem very real. It can occur while falling asleep (Hypnagogic Hallucinations) or while waking up (Hypnopompic Hallucinations).

– Disturbed sleep: Difficulty in staying asleep at night is also a symptom of Narcolepsy. Insomnia, vivid dreaming, sleep talking, periodic leg movements, and acting out while driving are also very common in Narcolepsy.

Although the exact cause of Narcolepsy stays unknown, reduced levels of a neurotransmitter- Hypocretin is suggested to be the most relevant factor. Hypocretin promotes wakefulness, which when low can create an autoimmune reaction to sleep attacks. Scientists have been conducting thorough research to figure out the major initiator of the disorder.

Diagnosis of the condition:

Preliminary diagnosis of Narcolepsy can be done on the basis of recurring episodes of EDS and Cataplexy. Furthermore Diagnostic Sleep Studies can also be done for diagnosing the disease.The patient is subject to an overnight session at a sleep centre where an in-depth study of their sleep habits are done. Specialized tests such as Polysomnogram and Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) is used to diagnose the condition that the patient is suffering from.

– Polysomnography is an overnight sleep study which records the patient’s brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, body movement and more. This test is also helpful to differentiate Narcolepsy with other disorders such as Shift Work Sleep Disorder.

– Multiple Sleep Latency Tests (MSLT) is performed to measure the tendency of the patient to fall asleep during the day. A patient’s brain waves, heartbeat, eye and chin movements are recorded through special equipments.

Treatment for Narcolepsy:

There is no cure for Narcolepsy, but some medications and behavioral treatments can help people gain control over their condition and help them live a normal life. People suffering from Narcolepsy are suggested to take both medication, as well as behavioural therapy sessions to overcome their disorder.

For medications, specialists recommend:

– Stimulants to help people stay awake. They are amphetamine-like drugs that continuously stimulate the central nervous system.

– Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors(SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors(SNRIs) suppress REM sleep to reduce the effect of sleep paralysis,cataplexy and hallucinations.

– Antidepressants are more effective for Cataplexy, but there have been complaints of side effects, so it is prescribed in special cases only.

– Sodium Oxybate is a strong sedative that is administered to the patient at night. It helps relieve the symptoms of Cataplexy and EDM.

If a patient is already suffering from other diseases, like blood pressure or diabetes, getting proper consultation can eradicate future complications.

Similarly certain lifestyle changes can also be made by the patients themselves to take control of their brain activity.

Some of them are:

Creating a proper sleep schedule

– Avoiding caffeine and alcoholic beverages

– Getting regular exercise

– Trying routines that relax you before bedtime (fo e.g., hot showers, massage)

– Talking with others about your problems and disorders

– Being alert and aware wherever necessary

Consult a sleep specialist if you are suffering from Narcolepsy

Swacon International Hospital specializes in all types of Sleep Care Treatment. With trained medical professionals and top quality equipment, we are the first choice for diagnosing and treating any kind of sleep disorders, including Sleep Apnea and Insomnia.

To book an appointment, please call us at +977-1-4478105 or email us at info@swaconhospital.com.

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