Narcoleptics, no matter how much
they sleep, continue to experience a irresistible
need to sleep. People with narcolepsy can fall asleep while at work,
talking, and driving a car for example. These "sleep
attacks" can last from 30 seconds to more than 30 minutes. They
may also experience periods of cataplexy (loss
of muscle tone) ranging from a slight buckling at the knees to a complete,
"rag doll" limpness throughout the body.
is a chronic disorder affecting the brain where regulation of sleep and
wakefulness take place. Narcolepsy can be thought of as an intrusion of
dreaming sleep (REM) into the waking state.
of narcolepsy has been calculated at about 0.03%
of the general population. Its onset can occur at any time throughout life,
but its peek onset is during the teen years. Narcolepsy has been found to
be hereditary along with some environmental
Narcolepsy in Depth
is a disabling disorder of sleep regulation that affects the control of
sleep and wakefulness. It may be described as an intrusion of the dream
sleep (called REM or rapid eye movement) into the waking state. Symptoms
generally begin between the ages of 15 and 30. The four
classic symptoms of the disorder are excessive
daytime sleepiness; cataplexy (sudden,
brief episodes of muscle weakness or paralysis brought on by strong emotions
such as laughter, anger, surprise or anticipation); sleep
paralysis (paralysis upon falling asleep or waking up); and hypnagogic
hallucinations (vivid dreamlike images that occur at sleep onset).
Disturbed nighttime sleep, including tossing
and turning in bed, leg jerks, nightmares, and frequent awakenings, may
also occur. The development, number and severity of symptoms vary widely
among individuals with the disorder. There appears to be an important genetic
component to the disorder as well.
sleepiness is usually
the first symptom of narcolepsy. Patients with the disorder experience irresistible
sleep attacks, throughout the day, which can last for 30 seconds to more
than 30 minutes, regardless of the amount or quality of prior nighttime
sleep. These attacks result in episodes of sleep at work and social events,
while eating, talking and driving, and in other similarly inappropriate
occasions. Although narcolepsy is not a rare disorder, it is often misdiagnosed
or diagnosed only years after symptoms first appear. Early diagnosis and
treatment, however, are important to the physical and mental well-being
of the affected individual.
There is no cure for narcolepsy; however, the symptoms can be controlled
with behavioral and medical therapy. The excessive
daytime sleepiness may be treated with stimulant drugs, while cataplexy
and other REM-sleep symptoms may be treated with antidepressant medications.
At best, medications will reduce the symptoms, but will not alleviate them
entirely. Also, some medications may have side effects. Basic lifestyle
adjustments such as keeping a good sleep schedule, improving diet, increasing
exercise and avoiding "exciting" situations may also help to reduce the
effects of excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy.
Although narcolepsy is a life-long condition, most individuals with the
disorder enjoy a near-normal lifestyle with adequate medication and support
from teachers, employers, and families. If not properly diagnosed and treated,
narcolepsy may have a devastating impact on the life of the affected individual,
causing social, psychological, and financial difficulties.
I hope you found this information
useful. If you have more questions please go to the
Narcolepsy Homepage. You may also try the Sleep Test and see how you score.
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