What is narcolepsy?
According to the literature, almost half of the adult population suffers from various sleep disorders. The most common disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, and other illnesses, but rarer disorders, such as narcolepsy, are occasionally encountered. Let’s look at what narcolepsy is, what are its symptoms, causes of development and methods of treatment.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a disease that includes several symptoms:
- severe daytime sleepiness;
- sleep paralysis (feeling of immobility during sleep);
- vivid hallucinations during falling asleep and waking up;
- cataplexy (an attack of severe weakness against the background of strong emotions).
At first, the disease may manifest itself with only one of the symptoms, but over time, others join. It is problematic for people with narcolepsy to stay awake throughout the day and sleep well at night due to frequent episodes of daytime sleep and nocturnal awakenings. Patients often present with double vision, decreased concentration, memory impairment, headaches, and an inability to perform daily tasks at work.
Causes of Narcolepsy
The exact causes of narcolepsy are not known. Its occurrence is associated with the pathology of the parts of the brain that control the process of falling asleep. In particular, patients have pathology in the structure of hypothalamic neurons. The hereditary nature of the disease is assumed.
Narcolepsy is much less common in children than in adults. Parents of such kids complain that preschool children are lazy and inactive. Surrounding should alert the desire of the child to sleep during the day. Attacks of sudden “falling” into sleep during monotonous actions or after eating are characteristic.
With narcolepsy syndrome, parents notice cataplexy attacks in the child. After emotions (crying, screaming, joy), the patient develops severe muscle weakness, he becomes limp and falls without losing consciousness.
It has been noted that some children with narcolepsy also suffer from sleep apnea or have symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Parents, noticing these symptoms in a child, should contact a somnologist for polysomnography .
How to treat narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is currently incurable. Patients undergo symptomatic treatment, which allows to slightly improve the quality of life. To reduce daytime sleepiness, stimulants are prescribed, as well as drugs that weaken the manifestation of cataplexy and sleep paralysis.
Treatment of the disease should be carried out in specialized clinics. At the Sleep Medicine Center at the Rehabilitation Clinic in Khamovniki, specialists have been helping people deal with various sleep disorders for many years.
Intense narcolepsy and frequent bouts of cataplexy limit social life, and episodes of cataplexy are life-threatening. Patients are in danger when driving a car, working with moving mechanisms, and even when cooking.
If you or your family members experience the symptoms described above, you can get tested for narcolepsy. The likelihood of the disease is high if there is a combination of two or more symptoms:
- sharp weakness or fall during strong emotions;
- periods of severe drowsiness during the day;
- frequent daytime sleep for normal performance in the future;
- the appearance of visions when falling asleep or waking up (“waking dreams”);
- short-term “paralysis” of the body immediately after waking up.
If you are suspected of having this disease, you should be examined and treated as soon as possible.