Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that is chronic in nature. This disorder is characterized by the person’s overwhelming need to sleep at odd times. They also are very drowsy during the daytime hours and have sudden bouts of falling asleep without warning.

People with narcolepsy usually find that they cannot stay awake for long hours no matter what they do. This chronic disorder can cause a lot of problems with a person’s daily schedule. Narcolepsy has been misdiagnosed many times in the past. It has been mistaken for fainting, depression, possible seizure disorder, and lack of sleep.

The symptoms of narcolepsy include being overly sleepy during the daytime hours no matter how long they have slept the night before. This is the most common symptom of narcolepsy. They are always sleepy during the daytime hours and have uncontrolled urges to fall asleep all hours during the day. Those who have narcolepsy can fall asleep anywhere without any warning. Sleep may last for minutes up to nearly an hour before waking. The person will wake feeling good however they will soon find the need to fall asleep again. Due to feeling drowsy and not very alert, people who have this problem may have a lot of trouble concentrating and may have problems functioning especially if they are trying to operate any type of machinery or equipment that might be dangerous when falling asleep.

People who have narcolepsy may experience another problem called cataplexy. This is a sudden uncontrolled loss of muscle tone and control. This can result in things such as someone’s knees buckling under them for no reason or their head dropping down without warning. Speech may be slurred when this happens. These episodes usually are temporary and only last a few minutes at a time. The biggest portion of the people who have narcolepsy also have this condition.

There is another symptom that is called sleep paralysis that people with narcolepsy experience. This is the inability to move or speak for a short period of time when falling asleep or when coming awake. This paralysis makes the person unable to move or speak. These usually last only for a few minutes but can be very frightening for people when they do occur.

Some narcoleptics have reported having hallucinations or having other vivid life like dreams that happen when they are semi awake. These dreams may seem very real when they happen.

The cause of narcolepsy is unknown. Some researchers feel that genetics may play a role in this disorder. Others feel that there may be factors such as certain infections may cause damage to brain cells and cause narcolepsy. What researchers do know is that people who do have narcolepsy have abnormally low levels of hypocretin in their brains. They have found that the cells that make hypocretin have been damaged in people who have narcolepsy. The exact cause of the damage to the cells is unknown at this time.

Treatment for narcolepsy can include stimulants to help people who have narcolepsy stay awake during the daytime hours. Physicians have had good luck using Provigil and Ritalin for people with this disorder. These medications can be effective for this problem however they are not without side effects. The side effects of these medications include heart palpitations, irritability, anxiety, and can be addicting.

Some antidepressants have been used to treat the problems associated with narcolepsy such as cataplexy, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Some of the drugs that have been used successfully for this include Prozac, Zoloft, and Tofranil. Xyrem is a drug that can be used to treat cataplexy and also to improve night time sleep for someone who has narcolepsy. It has been used to help control daytime sleeping as well.

Last updated on Jul 12th, 2009 and filed under Sleep Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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