Understanding Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is considered as a neurological condition that is characterized mainly by excessive daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy can make one sleep at inappropriate times especially while at work, at school or even while doing any form of physical activity. A person suffering from narcolepsy may fall asleep at random and at any point in the daytime.

Causes of narcolepsy

The main cause of narcolepsy has not yet been fully known or established. But researchers have discovered certain conditions that may be associated with the risk of a person having the disorder. Some researchers have associated narcolepsy with certain genetic conditions in some people.

Some genes have been identified that may be associated with narcolepsy. These genes are particularly important in the production of certain chemicals in the brain that may affect sleep and waking patterns. Other possible cited causes may be due to certain abnormal functions in the brain that involves regulating REM sleep.

Symptoms of narcolepsy

Excessive daytime sleepiness or EDS is a common symptom of narcolepsy and this does not usually matter if the person has taken sufficient sleep or not. Symptoms that are associated with EDS include difficulties in concentrating, forgetfulness, lack of energy and mood swings.

Another symptom associated with narcolepsy includes cataplexy or sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to weakness and loss of voluntary muscle control. Other symptoms include experiencing hallucinations and sleep paralysis or temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or when waking up.

How narcolepsy is diagnosed?

Diagnosis of this condition usually requires a study of a patient’s medical history as well as clinical examination. There are also tests that might be required to help doctors diagnose narcolepsy.

Essential tests that may be required include taking a sleep study or polysomnogram or PSG and the multiple sleep latency test or MSLT.

The MSLT is a test that is used by sleep specialists to measure the time that it takes a person to start a nap to showing the first signs of sleep, or sleep latency. These tests are then evaluated by sleep specialist to determine or diagnose narcolepsy in addition to the symptoms exhibited by patients.

 How to prevent narcolepsy?

Because the main underlying cause of narcolepsy is still unknown, there are no preventive measures yet provided for such a sleeping disorder.

How to treat narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy treatment may differ from one person to another. The treatment can be based on the symptoms shown and how one may respond to them.

Common treatment for narcolepsy includes medication that may stimulate the central nervous system. Other types of medication include the use of antidepressants as well as drugs that may suppress REM sleep.