1 AnswerHealthyWomen answeredCataplexy is characterized by sudden episodes of loss of muscle function. These can range from slight weakness (such as limpness at the neck or knees, sagging facial muscles or an inability to speak clearly) to complete body collapse. Attacks are typically triggered by sudden emotional reactions such as laughter, anger or fear, and may last from a few seconds to several minutes. Cataplexy is seen almost exclusively in people with narcolepsy.
1 AnswerPeople with narcolepsy often tell me they feel overly sleepy after meals. What and how much you're eating may be a contributing factor. Some doctors don't believe diet has any impact on narcolepsy symptoms, but some studies—and definitely patient stories—say otherwise. Evaluating your diet and giving it a good healthy boost certainly couldn't hurt right?
Let's give it a try.
1. Start by journaling your food for two weeks. Don't change your diet at all, but write everything down. I mean everything: food, snacks, beverages, candy.
2. Note how you feel up to 30 minutes after eating.
3. Highlight or underline all the simple carbohydrates you're eating with each meal. Simple carbs break down into glucose very easily, which may be messing with your system, or even causing you to gain weight. Examples of simple carbs are: white bread, crackers, low fiber cereals, cookies, sweets, juice, white pasta, soda, cake.
4. Replace simple carbs with complex carbs, like brown rice, multi-grain breads, oats, vegetables, beans, whole fruit, soy, yams, potatoes, yogurt, and peas.
5. Clean out your kitchen and go shopping!
6. Switch to eating high-fiber meals rich in complex carbs and lean proteins.
7. Note how you feel up to 30 minutes after eating. Do you see a difference?
What about that lean protein? Try limiting your protein to beans, fish, and poultry during the day and see how you feel. If you're inclined to eat red meat, limit the quantity to the size of a deck of cards, and eat it at dinnertime. If you're sleepy afterward—that's okay, it's bedtime. Right?
1 AnswerIf you've been diagnosed with narcolepsy, I'm going to ask you to make some changes.
1. Tell the people who need to know. Your teachers. Your coworkers. Your boss. Explain your situation and your needs, and emphasize that you still aim to be a responsible fully accountable person. Most people understand, once they know what's going on, and will even be helpful.
2. Schedule your day so you can take a 10- to 15-minute nap after breakfast and lunch. If you're at work or school, escape to a designated office, under a tree, or in your car (if it's in a safe spot).
3. Eat light during the day. Switch to low carbohydrates, low fat meals. Vegetarian meals are great. Avoiding heavy, high-fat meals will help you stay alert. In the evening, eat your normal fare.
4. Consider getting an assistance dog. An assistance dog can nudge you awake, especially if there's danger, and protect you if you have a cataplexy (sudden muscle tone loss) attack in public.
5. Join a support group online. You may be surprised how many people experience the same types of situations you do, and have found tricks to avoiding them.
6. Practice good ol' regular sleep habits. That means no caffeine, alcohol or exercise several hours before bed. But do get regular exercise. Don't smoke. Go to bed before 11 p.m., and at the same time each night. And make your sleeping environment dark, quiet, comfy and safe.
Take on one thing at a time over the next three months. By the end of 90 days, you'll find these habits are a natural part of your life.
2 AnswersThe following tests are used to diagnose narcolepsy:
1. Sleep Study or Polysomnogram (PSG): This painless test is done at night, usually at a sleep center. While you're sleeping, electrodes measure breathing, any breathing difficulty, oxygen levels, brain waves, eye and muscle movement, and your heart rate.
If there are any abnormalities to your sleep cycle—for example, you experience REM (rapid eye movement, which occurs when you're dreaming) at abnormal times—this will help the healthcare provider rule out other causes.
2. Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT): The MSLT is completed during the day. It measures how long it takes you to fall asleep. You'll take a short nap a few times during the day. If you're able to fall asleep within 8 minutes and/or you achieve REM within a couple minutes of falling asleep, you may have narcolepsy.
Together, these two tests go a long way to helping determine whether you have narcolepsy, but they don't tell the whole story. If you don't experience cataplexy (sudden muscle tone loss) too, we need to rule out other potential causes of your sleepiness.
There is a third test—but it's not for everyone. It's called a human leukocyte antigen typing. It measures hypocretin, the brain chemical that is thought to cause narcolepsy in some cases. The test involves taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid through your lumbar spine.
1 AnswerMichael Breus, PhD, Psychology, answeredWhat are the signs of narcolepsy?
• Excessive daytime sleepiness is typically the first symptom of narcolepsy. It’s the overwhelming need to sleep when you prefer to be awake.
• Narcolepsy is typically associated with a sudden weakness or paralysis often initiated by laughter or other intense feelings, sleep paralysis, an often frightening situation--where you are half awake yet cannot move--and intensely vivid and scary dreams occurring at the onset or end of sleep.
• A narcoleptic may also experience “automatic behavior,” in which you perform routine or boring tasks but can’t remember doing so later.
Although some claim to be effective, there are no proven over-the-counter medications that can cure or treat narcolepsy. Taking nonprescription stimulants, for example, can be dangerous and ineffective without a doctor's oversight. Talk to your doctor before using any medication for your narcolepsy symptoms.
3 AnswersFor the evaluation of narcolepsy, it is best to start with a primary care physician who can perform an initial workup. Referrals can be made from here if the primary physician feels it is necessary to evaluate other underlying disorders such as sleep apnea or neurological conditions.
Because the exact cause of narcolepsy is not known, it is unknown whether any other disease has an effect on it. But if you have another condition for which you are taking medication, be sure to tell your doctor before they prescribe a drug for your narcolepsy symptoms. Certain medications for diabetes and high blood pressure, for example, should not be taken together with certain narcolepsy drugs.
Narcolepsy can affect children as well as adults. Symptoms often begin appearing around age 10 through adolescence. Even preschoolers have been diagnosed with the condition, however. The younger the patient, the more severe the narcolepsy will likely be in adulthood. Untreated narcolepsy can contribute to behavior and learning difficulties. If you suspect your child has narcolepsy, contact their physician.
Having narcolepsy is potentially serious. The condition itself will not harm you. But your work or relationships may suffer from your daytime fatigue. Real harm can result from driving or doing other dangerous activities if your narcolepsy is not under control, as falling asleep at the wheel could be life-threatening.