Narcolepsy may be a chronic disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. People with narcolepsy often find it difficult to remain awake for long periods of your time , no matter the circumstances. Narcolepsy can cause serious disruptions in your daily routine.
Sometimes, narcolepsy are often amid a sudden loss of muscular tonus (cataplexy), which may be triggered by strong emotion. Narcolepsy that happens with cataplexy is named type 1 narcolepsy. Narcolepsy that happens without cataplexy is understood as type 2 narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy may be a chronic condition that there is no cure. However, medications and lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. Support from others — family, friends, employers, teachers — can assist you deal with narcolepsy.
The signs and symptoms of narcolepsy may worsen for the primary few years then continue for all times . They include:
Excessive daytime sleepiness. People with narcolepsy nod off all of sudden , anywhere, anytime. For example, you may be working or talking with friends and suddenly you nod off, sleeping for a few minutes up to a half-hour. When you awaken, you are feeling refreshed, but eventually you get sleepy again.
You may also experience decreased alertness and focus throughout the day. Excessive daytime sleepiness usually is the first symptom to appear and is often the most troublesome, making it difficult for you to concentrate and fully function.
Sudden loss of muscle tone. This condition, called cataplexy (KAT-uh-plek-see), can cause a number of physical changes, from slurred speech to complete weakness of most muscles, and may last up to a few minutes.
Cataplexy is uncontrollable and is triggered by intense emotions, usually positive ones like laughter or excitement, but sometimes fear, surprise or anger. For example, when you laugh, your head may droop uncontrollably or your knees may suddenly buckle.
Some people with narcolepsy experience just one or two episodes of cataplexy a year, while others have numerous episodes daily. Not everyone with narcolepsy experiences cataplexy.
Sleep paralysis. People with narcolepsy often experience a short lived inability to maneuver or speak while falling asleep or upon waking. These episodes are usually brief — lasting a few seconds or minutes — but can be frightening. You may remember of the condition and haven't any difficulty recalling it afterward, albeit you had no control over what was happening to you.
This sleep paralysis mimics the type of temporary paralysis that normally occurs during a period of sleep called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This temporary immobility during paradoxical sleep may prevent your body from acting out dream activity.
Not everyone with sleep paralysis has narcolepsy, however. Many people without narcolepsy experience some episodes of sleep paralysis.
Changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is typically when most dreaming happens. REM sleep can occur at any time of the day in people with narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy often transition quickly to paradoxical sleep , usually within quarter-hour of falling asleep.
Hallucinations. These hallucinations are called hypnagogic hallucinations if they happen as you nod off and hypnopompic hallucinations if they occur upon waking. An example is feeling as if there is a stranger in your bedroom. These hallucinations may be particularly vivid and frightening because you may not be fully asleep when you begin dreaming and you experience your dreams as reality.
People with narcolepsy may produce other sleep disorders, like obstructive apnea — a condition during which breathing starts and stops throughout the night — restless legs syndrome syndrome and even insomnia.
Some people with narcolepsy experience automatic behavior during brief episodes of narcolepsy. For example, you may fall asleep while performing a task you normally perform, such as writing, typing or driving, and you continue to perform that task while asleep. When you awaken, you can't remember what you did, and you probably didn't do it well.
The exact cause of narcolepsy is unknown. People with type 1 narcolepsy have low levels of the chemical hypocretin (hi-poe-KREE-tin). Hypocretin is a crucial neurochemical in your brain that helps regulate wakefulness and paradoxical sleep .
Hypocretin levels are particularly low in those who experience cataplexy. Exactly what causes the loss of hypocretin-producing cells in the brain isn't known, but experts suspect it's due to an autoimmune reaction.
It's also likely that genetics play a role in the development of narcolepsy. But the risk of a parent passing this disorder to a child is very low — only about 1 percent.
Research also indicates a possible association with exposure to the swine flu (H1N1 flu) virus and a certain form of H1N1 vaccine that's currently administered in Europe, though it's not yet clear why.
There are only a couple of known risk factors for narcolepsy, including:
Ø Age. Narcolepsy typically begins in people between 10 and 30 years old.
Ø Family history. Your risk of narcolepsy is 20 to 40 times higher if you have a family member who has narcolepsy.
Public misunderstanding of the condition. Narcolepsy may cause serious problems for you professionally and personally. Others might see you as lazy or lethargic. Your performance may suffer at school or work.
Interference with intimate relationships. Intense feelings, like anger or joy, can trigger signs of narcolepsy like cataplexy, causing affected people to withdraw from emotional interactions.
Physical harm. Sleep attacks may end in physical harm to people with narcolepsy. You're at increased risk of a car accident if you have an attack while driving. Your risk of cuts and burns is bigger if you nod off while preparing food.
Obesity. People with narcolepsy are more likely to be overweight. The weight gain may be related to a low metabolism.
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