What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by very severe daytime sleepiness and sudden bouts of sleep.

Affected people often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time. Chronic sleep disorder can cause serious disturbances in the daily routine.

Contrary to what many people think, the condition is not associated with:
• Depression;
• Diseases characterized by with seizures;
• Loss of consciousness;
• Simple lack of sleep;
• Other conditions , which can cause disturbances in sleeping habits;

Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder for which there is no cure. However, medications and lifestyle changes can help control symptoms. Support from loved ones – family, friends, employers, teachers – can help cope with the chronic disorder.

What are the symptoms?

Most often, clinical manifestations begin between the ages of 10 and 25. It is possible to have an exacerbation in the first few years and then continue to have symptoms for the rest of your life. They are:

Excessive daytime sleepiness – sufferers fall asleep without warning, anywhere at any time. For example, it is possible for a person suffering from this chronic disorder to suddenly blurt out at work or when talking with friends. Also, the affected person may fall asleep for a few minutes or half an hour and then feel refreshed, but then fall asleep again.

• Sufferers of this sleep disorder do not feel alert throughout the day. Excessive sleepiness during the day is usually the first symptom to appear and is often the most alarming, as it makes it difficult to concentrate and, accordingly, fully perform duties.

Sudden loss of muscle tone – this condition is called cataplexy and can cause a range of physical changes – from slurred speech to weakness of most muscles, and can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Cataplexy is uncontrollable and triggered by strong emotions, usually positive ones such as laughter or excitement, but sometimes by fear, surprise or anger. For example, the affected person’s head may bob uncontrollably or their knees may suddenly buckle while laughing.

• Some sufferers experience only one or two attacks of catalepsy for years, while others have multiple attacks daily. Not all sufferers of chronic sleep disorder develop catalepsy.

Sleep paralysis – sufferers often experience a temporary inability to move or speak during sleep or upon awakening. Such attacks are usually short – lasting 1 or 2 minutes – but can be extremely frightening. Most sufferers of the chronic disorder are aware of their condition and have no difficulty recalling the attacks afterward, even if they had no control over what happened to them.

Not everyone with sleep paralysis has narcolepsy. Many perfectly healthy people fall into attacks of sleep paralysis, especially at a young age.

Narcolepsy treatment

Stick to a schedule – it is necessary to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including Saturdays and Sundays.

Avoid nicotine and alcohol – using these substances, especially at night, can make signs and symptoms worse.

Take naps – you need to make a schedule for which part of the day you will take a nap. A nap of about 20 minutes several times a day has a refreshing effect and helps to reduce sleepiness by 1 to 3 hours.

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