Do you fall asleep during the day or suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness? You may have narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and can make a person fall asleep at inappropriate times. These sleep attacks are not usually relieved by any amount of sleep. Narcolepsy, if not diagnosed and properly managed, can severely impact your quality of life.
While there are several primary disorders of excessive sleepiness with unknown causes, true Narcolepsy is caused by a reduction in production and activity of hypocretin-orexin in the brain. Genetics and the immune system also play a role.
Know the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Cataplexy (sudden brief loss of muscle strength usually triggered by a strong emotion, such as laughter, anger, or surprise)
- Hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid dreams occurring when you’re drowsy)
- Sleep paralysis (inability to move for a brief period upon falling asleep or waking up)
- Disturbed nighttime sleep (fragmented sleep patterns at night)
- Problems concentrating, memory loss, mood problems
- Automatic behavior (routine tasks performed on “auto-pilot” even though the person may be falling asleep)
Narcolepsy can only confirmed through overnight testing at a sleep disorders center followed by a next-day MSLT (Multiple Sleep Latency Test). If you have a diagnosed or suspected sleep disorder, it’s important to seek treatment from a sleep disorders center with qualified personnel who are trained to manage the care and follow-up of sleep disorder patients.
Get help for narcolepsy
Although there is no cure for narcolepsy, recent advances in medicine have made narcolepsy increasingly manageable. Prescription medications can be used and should be adjusted and managed by professionals trained in sleep medicine. Getting educated about narcolepsy can help you make adjustments to your lifestyle that can improve your symptoms and increase your quality of life.
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