When You Just Can't Stop Falling Asleep: Narcolepsy Symptoms and Diagnosis
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When You Just Can't Stop Falling Asleep: Narcolepsy Symptoms and Diagnosis

Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder caused by the brain's inability to properly coordinate the body's sleep (circadian) rhythms. Narcoleptics fall asleep at peculiar times or they crave sleep more than what is considered normal. Narcolepsy is one of the rarest sleep disorders.

Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder caused by the brain's inability to properly coordinate the body's sleep (circadian) rhythms. Narcoleptics fall asleep at peculiar times or they crave sleep more than what is considered normal. Narcolepsy is one of the rarest sleep disorders.

The sleep patterns of narcolepsy sufferers are off base and they can crave or fall asleep at odd hours. Imagine how dangerous that would be for people using heavy machinery, driving cars, or even for mothers with young children.

Less than one percent of people suffer from narcolepsy. Which is a good thing, given how dangerous narcolepsy could be.

Though narcolepsy can surface at any time it usually does not surface until at less the ages of 15 – 25. There are different triggers that will bring on narcolepsy and this determines at what age the sleep disorder will manifest itself.

The cause and effects of narcolepsy are complex and even scientists are not altogether sure of why it happens. There is a theory that narcolepsy is the result of a neurotransmitter malfunction in the brain. They believe that low levels of hypcretin is the cause.

Other causes for the condition is said to be due to:

  • Hormone imbalances in the brain
  • Brain injury or disease
  • Infection
  • Genetics – up to 12 percent of sufferers have family members who are also narcoleptic

Symptoms of narcolepsy

The obvious one is the compelling desire to sleep. However, this need to sleep can go hand in hand with muscle weakness. Worst still, narcoleptics can suffer from hallucinations, delusions, and/or sleep paralysis.

What to do if you think you have narcolepsy

The obvious answer is to see your physician for a diagnosis.

Diagnostic tools used for determining narcolepsy

The doctor will give you an exam, and take your medical history. The tests used are a polysomnogram which is machine (electroencepholgram (EEG) that records the brain waves patterns during REM sleep. This machine will also record eye movement (when you are in REM sleep). The next test to be done is a multiple sleep latency test. This test measures the time the patients lays down and closes their eyes to the time (sleep latency) the patients actually falls asleep. Both these tests are painless and are done overnight in a clinical sleep lab. The tests also monitor heart rate and muscle tone while patients are awake and when they have fallen asleep.

What often happens is that narcolepsy can go undiagnosed for many years; especially if the symptoms are vague, such as the desire to sleep.

There is no cure for narcolepsy at present. Your doctor will discuss different treatment options available to you at this time.

Sources:

http://www.better-sleep-better-life.com/what-is-narcolepsy.html

 

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Comments (2)

This really is a very difficult disorder.

Ranked #14 in Sleep

Thanks for the great info discussed here. My mother is diagnosed with this condition, fortunately she's now in North America where she can receive treatment. We don't have specialists and medicines here in the Philippines for narcolepsy.

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