What Is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a disorder that affects the sleeping cycle of a person. It is a rare disease that affects 1 out of 2,000 people. Starting from the nervous system, it can affect a person’s life quality. In this disorder, a person starts getting sleep attacks at daytime and fragmented sleep at night.
Since narcolepsy is associated with sleeping, its symptoms are often misdiagnosed and the disorder is left untreated.
There are two types of narcolepsy:
- Type 1: It is the most common form of narcolepsy that involves loss of muscle tone suddenly, also called cataplexy. A protein called hypocretin gets lowered in this condition.
- Type 2: It does not involve cataplexy, and the level of hypocretin also remains normal.
The frequency and severity of narcolepsy symptoms may vary from person to person. A few common symptoms are:
- Daytime Sleep Attacks: Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is felt by people suffering from narcolepsy. The urge to sleep makes it difficult for a person to complete even minor tasks.
- Cataplexy: Sudden loss of muscle tone is felt in type 1 of narcolepsy.
- Poor rapid eye movement sleep: REM sleep is the type of sleep that a person gets when he or she dreams. A person with narcolepsy can have REM sleep at any time of the day.
- Sleep paralysis: A narcolepsy affected person sometimes has a few minutes or seconds long episodes of sleep paralysis.
- Fragmented sleep: While a person sleeps attacks in the day time, the night sleep becomes very poor.
- Automatic behaviors: Even after falling asleep during the daytime, a person keeps doing the work for a few seconds or minutes.
This condition is accompanied by other sleep conditions like:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Restless legs syndrome
Who Is At Risk?
Few factors increase the risk of a person developing sleep disorders. These narcolepsy risk factors are:
- Age: People of age between 10 and 30 years are more likely to develop the condition.
- Family history: The risk of a person having narcolepsy increases by 20 to 40 times if a person in his or her family is diagnosed with narcolepsy.
The causes of narcolepsy are not known to scientists yet. However, hypocretin protein levels are found to be lowered in a person with narcolepsy. This protein helps in regulating our sleep cycles. Hence, it is believed that a decrease in hypocretin levels can be one of the causes of narcolepsy.
Certain gene mutations are also identified to be the cause of hypocretin deficiency. Some other factors that induce narcolepsy are:
- High stress
- Exposure to certain toxins
How Is Narcolepsy Diagnosed?
Narcolepsy diagnosis involves many tests to check your neural system and sleep. Some of them are:
- Physical Exam: Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, the severity, and frequency of them, any history of other sleep disorders.
- Polysomnogram (PSG): This involves sleeping in a medical facility. Your brain activity, heart activities, eye movements, and muscle movements are closely monitored to detect the underlying problem.
- Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS): It is a questionnaire that contains questions that ask how likely it is that you will sleep in certain circumstances.
- Multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT): This test is taken to check your likeability of falling in a REM during the daytime. A person has to sleep 4-5 times throughout the day.
How Is Narcolepsy Treated?
Complete narcolepsy cure is not possible, as its root cause is not clearly to the doctors yet. However, your narcolepsy doctor might try a few treatment methods to reduce symptoms. The one major treatment methods is giving medicine for narcolepsy. A few others can be adjusting your lifestyle and avoiding situations where sudden sleep can prove hazardous.
If you are also having problems in sleep and suspecting that you are suffering from narcolepsy, Care.Fit can provide narcolepsy treatment to you. We have a team of specialist doctors who have years of experience in dealing with similar conditions. To book an appointment with a sleep specialist, go to Care.Fit’s website or app.
How Can Narcolepsy be Prevented?
As of yet, there are no methods known to doctors and scientists that can help in the prevention of narcolepsy. However, a timely diagnosis of the condition can help a person maintain the quality of life. Hence, if you detect any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should immediately consult a doctor.