Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes extreme daytime sleepiness. This is a lifelong disorder that makes one feel tired and in severe cases, have sudden uncontrollable sleep attacks. Narcolepsy can impact nearly every aspect of one's life. Many people with this condition do not know they have the sleep disorder. The exact cause of narcolepsy is unknown but factors such as genetics and infection may contribute to the development of narcolepsy.
The symptoms of narcolepsy commonly begin between the ages 10 and 25 and may worsen for the first few years and then continue for life. The symptoms include:
• Excessive daytime sleepiness without warning, anywhere at any time.
• Sudden loss of muscle tone called as cataplexy which can cause a number of physical changes from slurred speech to complete weakness of most muscles that may last for a few seconds to a few minutes.
• Brief episodes of sleep paralysis lasting for one or two minutes.
• Hallucinations that are vivid, sometimes frightening, visual or auditory sensations while falling asleep or upon awakening.
• Night-time wakefulness with hot flashes, elevated heart rate and sometimes intense alertness.
Here are a few lifestyle modifications in managing the symptoms of narcolepsy:
• Schedule your sleep periods
• Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
• Avoid over the counter drugs that cause drowsiness
• Exercise on a regular basis
• Avoid activities that would be dangerous if you had a sudden sleep attack
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience excessive daytime sleepiness that disrupts your personal or professional life!