Narcolepsy? What is that?
Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder which can seriously disrupt your quality of life. It is the second biggest cause of daytime sleepiness after sleep apnea. Narcolepsy is difficult to diagnose, one reason for this is because sufferers don’t always know they have a disease and consequently may not seek medical attention for years, thinking that their symptoms are just a normal part of life.
Some of the symptoms of narcolepsy can be brought on by other disorders, which also adds to the problem. A mutiple sleep latency test (mslt) can be performed at a sleep disorders clinic which makes diagnosis more accurate.
Narcolepsy can strike at any age although more commonly starts in the teenage to young adult years. It also affects more males than females. It is a neurological disorder of the processes which control sleep and wakefulness, particularly the regulation of REM and non REM sleep.
Narcolepsy is genetic and can be inherited from one or both parents, even if they themselves show no symptoms.
Are there narcolepsy symptoms to be aware of?
Daytime sleepiness is the primary symptom. Although it doesn’t sound that bad, it can cause havoc in the lives of sufferers. Everything from your job to your social life can be affected. Those afflicted can suffer an overwhelming need to go to sleep regardless of what thy are doing and whether or not they had slept well the previous night. These “sleepy” attacks can last from a few seconds and up to thirty minutes.
Certain activities like driving a car become very hazardous when the body thinks its time to go to sleep! If your job involves operating machinery this can also be very dangerous.
Due to the neurological nature of narcolepsy and the effect on REM sleep, dream like hallucinations can occur when you are awake. This can cause confusion and stress and can have a negative effect on your self confidence. Cataplexy is another symptom associated with narcolepsy. Not everyone who has narcolepsy exhibits cataplexy although the majority do. Cataplexy is the paralysis of the major muscles which, in severe cases, can cause a sufferer to collapse and be unable to move until the attack passes. Normal reflexes become disabled. It is frightening for the afflicted person and for those around them.
Cataplexy usually strikes when you experience a strong emotion such as anger, sorrow or even amusement and laughter. The attack may last for a few seconds to a few minutes. Cataplexy is not life threatening in that it doesn’t affect the heart muscle or the breathing mechanisms but it can be unpleasant and embarrassing.
Sleep paralysis is another symptom commonly associated with narcolepsy. Sleep paralysis can occur when falling asleep or on waking. You can find yourself unable to move. Fortunately this normally only lasts for a few minutes. Sleep paralysis is not a disorder in itself but is normally only experienced during the REM phase of sleep (disassociated REM sleep).
Restless sleep and vivid dreams go hand in hand with narcolepsy. Insomnia, suddenly jerking awake and poor quality sleep may also be symptoms.
Are there any narcolepsy treatments?
Narcolepsy can only be treated by addressing the symptoms. If it is properly diagnosed the treatment can usually be quite successful and you can live a relatively normal life. Medications for narcolepsy such as stimulants may be prescribed for the daytime sleepiness, while antidepressants may be prescribed for the cataplexy if present.
Lifestyle changes such as having daytime naps, and keeping a regular sleep schedule will also help. Avoid too much exitement which could bring on an attack of cataplexy.
If you suspect you have narcolepsy after reading this, seek treatment straight away. It could improve your life significantly. The more symptoms that are present, the easier the diagnosis. you may require a polysomnogram at a sleep clinic or a hospital with this facility. A multi sleep latency test may also be performed. The following video shows some treatments that are currently available. Be aware that these treatments do have side effects.
Is there any cure for narcolepsy or cataplexy?
Unfortunately not yet, but there is much narcolepsy research being done. Stanford University and UCLA have discovered abnormalities in the brain which may be responsible for the condition. They found a chemical named hypocretin (orexin) occured 85-95% less frequently in the brains of people with narcolepsy. This finding could affect future treatment and hopefully lead to a cure for this debilitating disorder. More recent reasearch has shown that stem cells could be used to recreate the lost hypocretin cells lost in narcolepsy sufferers. However it may be quite some time before this type of treatment becomes available.
Diet for narcolepsy
While doctors will tell you there’s no such thing, others claim to have cured themselves by following a food plan that eliminates toxic substances such as mercury – in your dental fillings, msg, ‘nutra-sweet’ and fluoride. This is by no means a complete list and I suggest you investigate further if interested. Drink plenty of water to flush out toxins and consider a detox to flush out toxins already resident in your body.
Also take a look at our qigong page to find out more about self healing. This ancient Chinese modality is easy to learn and apply.
Visit the site at Stanford University for more information on research and on narcolepsy in general.
Also to find out more about research Clinical trials a government information site will give details.
Yet another useful site on narcolepsy is the Narcolepsy Network where you can get good information and sign up for a newsletter.