Narcolepsy Symptoms and Treatments
Narcolepsy is a disabling sleep
characterized by an
uncontrollable daytime drowsiness and sleep attacks during normal
waking hours. It happens mostly among
adolescents and young adults.
Attacks may be very short – lasting from just a few
seconds to more
than an hour, they may come with a wide range of intensity and there
may be only a few to many of them a day.
happen any time of the day, while driving, talking, eating, and may
interfere with daily activities, reducing quality of life, leading to
problems in the workplace and increasing the risk of car
are not known. Medical researchers have a few different theories and
are conducting studies to prove them.
The first one is based on the
fact that people with this sleep disorder have a deficiency of specific
neurons in their brain. Those neurons are responsible for transition
from sleep to wakefulness and opposite. Some researchers who used gene
markers in their studies believe that the disorder may be inherited.
are also findings implicating that some cases of this sleep disorder
associated with a malfunction of the immune system, where the
antibodies are produced and cause damage in the brain, which then may
trigger sleep attack.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Below are listed the most common symptoms
although not all of them have to be present in a given case:
- Intense daytime drowsiness
- Uncontrollable sleep attacks
- Cataplexy, which is an unexpected loss of muscle tone
without loss of
consciousness. This usually happens in response to a sudden emotion.
paralysis with auditory
or visual hallucinations in the state of transition from sleep to
- Frequent awakening at night caused by nightmares or
examination must take place in order to exclude any disease with
Sleep Latency Test may be done to
confirm diagnosis. This is a complex test during which a person is
allowed to fall asleep in a sleep lab, several times during a day.
During each sleep episode recording equipment
brain activity, muscle tone, eye movements, heart rate, breathing, and
The information is analyzed by the doctor to
the severity of the disease and possible treatment options.
Narcolepsy is usually a lifelong problem so adjustments
in lifestyle and good
hygiene are essential. Some of changes may include:
- regular naps, especially after meals
- stress reduction
- avoiding monotone activities, keeping busy while awake
- avoiding heavy meals
treatment may include:
- prescription stimulant drugs to control drowsiness
and sleep attacks
- antidepressant drugs to suppress cataplexy, sleep
- one of the new drugs to control sleepiness is
Modafanil, approved by
the FDA in 1999.
Narcolepsy Symptoms and Treatment