Understanding Narcolepsy: Causes & Treatment
posted by Revere Health | April 25, 2017
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes sudden, overwhelming attacks of daytime drowsiness or sleep. It can also make staying awake for a significant period of time very difficult.
There is no cure for narcolepsy, and it can be accompanied by a condition called cataplexy—a sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to loss of control and general weakness. However, the right medications and lifestyle adjustments can help manage symptoms and make daily life easier for people with narcolepsy.
There are a few complications involved with narcolepsy, most of which relate to social or physical results of the condition:
The precise cause of narcolepsy is not known, and doctors think there could be several causes. One factor that may play a role is a chemical called hypocretin, which regulates REM sleep and general wakefulness in the brain. Hypocretin levels are commonly low in people who experience cataplexy. In addition, some research shows that exposure to the swine flu virus and certain swine flu vaccines in Europe may increase the likelihood of narcolepsy. Genetics may also play a role in some cases.
There is no cure for narcolepsy, but there are several medications that can help:
For each of these medications, speak with your doctor in advance to make sure they’re safe for you. Ask how they might interact with any other health conditions you may have.
Many patients with narcolepsy find that certain lifestyle habits can help manage symptoms. These include:
Narcolepsy can be a difficult disease to manage from an emotional standpoint. Your own emotions and a general lack of public understanding can make coping with the disease difficult.
Seek help if you are struggling, and if a loved one has a diagnosis, be on the lookout for them. Talking about the condition and how it makes you feel can help a lot, and it can also help inform others—coworkers, teachers, parents and others. Take safety precautions, including a medication schedule that will allow you to drive and accomplish other tasks with less risk of falling asleep. If needed, look to support groups and counseling for narcolepsy.
“Narcolepsy.” National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/narcolepsy/content/what-narcolepsy
“Narcolepsy.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcolepsy/basics/definition/con-20027429
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.