Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy

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    Narcolepsy can make you very tired during the day, and may cause you to fall asleep without warning at any time. You may find it hard to concentrate or remain alert enough to complete your tasks. Cataplexy, or lack of muscle tone, can also strike at any time, though this is often linked to feeling extreme happiness, sadness, or other emotion. Sleep paralysis can cause you to be unable to move or speak for a short time after awakening, which can be scary. Narcolepsy may also diminish your quality of nighttime sleep and your sex drive.

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    Narcolepsy cannot be diagnosed from symptoms alone, as many other sleep disorders can cause the same symptoms. Therefore, you will most likely be tested at a sleep center. During a sleep study, you stay in a sleep lab. As you sleep, your brain, heart, lungs, and muscles will be monitored. A doctor will evaluate the test results. Your doctor may also recommend a spinal tap to measure your level of hypocretin, a brain chemical that helps control sleep.

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    Narcolepsy is a condition characterized by sudden sleep attacks during the day. Individuals with narcolepsy may fall asleep at inappropriate times and without warning several times a day. Research found that people with narcolepsy lack a chemical in the brain known as hypocretin. This substance normally stimulates arousal and helps regulate sleep.
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    If you suspect you have narcolepsy, you may want to make an appointment with your family physician to discuss your symptoms. They will probably refer you to a sleep specialist who can help you undergo testing in a sleep clinic or lab. The sleep specialist will likely be a neurologist, but may also be a pulmonologist, otolaryngologist, or other qualified doctor.

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    If daytime fatigue is interfering with your life, or if you suspect you have narcolepsy, you should talk to your doctor. Undiagnosed narcolepsy can lead to personal and professional problems, as your behavior could be mistaken for laziness or disinterest, or you could have trouble completing tasks. Serious complications such as auto accidents can also result from uncontrolled sleepiness. Though your doctor cannot offer a cure, they can diagnose your narcolepsy and may be able to treat some of its symptoms.

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    There is currently no cure for narcolepsy. Prescription medications and behavioral changes can help you manage its symptoms, however. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

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    Narcolepsy is a potentially serious, chronic sleep disorder which causes uncontrollable fatigue during the day and sleep disturbances at night. If you have narcolepsy, you regularly feel very sleepy during the daytime, and you may even fall asleep up to several times a day. These episodes may be accompanied by muscle weakness.

    Narcolepsy has no cure, but treatment options are available. Your doctor may prescribe an SSRI or other type of antidepressant to relieve many of your symptoms. Another treatment option is prescription stimulants, which may help during the day. Sodium oxybate may be recommended to help you sleep at night, stay awake during the day, and relieve serious cases of cataplexy. All of these medicines have potential side effects.

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    The rate of narcolepsy varies by region, even among developed nations. For instance, in the United States and Europe, about 1 in 2,000 people has narcolepsy. The rate is much lower in Israel, only 1 in 500,000, but much higher in Japan, 1 in 600. The cause of this variation is unknown.

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    It's not unusual for people suffering from narcolepsy to visit a variety of healthcare professionals for years before they receive an accurate diagnosis. To get an accurate diagnosis, you should be seen in an accredited sleep center by a sleep specialist.

    Two tests are used to diagnose narcolepsy. The nocturnal polysomnogram (sleep study) involves continuous recording of brain waves and several nerve and muscle functions during nighttime sleep. It also includes monitoring your breathing pattern and oxygen levels while you sleep. When tested, people with narcolepsy fall asleep rapidly, enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep early and may wake often during the night. The polysomnogram also helps detect other possible sleep disorders such as sleep apnea that could cause daytime sleepiness.

    The multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) measures the degree of daytime sleepiness and detects when REM sleep occurs. During this test, you're given a chance to sleep every two hours during normal wake times. A sleep specialist observes how long it takes you to fall asleep. People with narcolepsy fall asleep rapidly and enter REM sleep very early in their sleep cycle.
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    Behavioral changes may help treat some of your narcolepsy symptoms without medication. Avoid smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, especially before bedtime. Exercise regularly, but not at night. Keep a regular sleeping and waking schedule, and take naps of less than 30 minutes at the same time every day. Some people also find counseling or support groups to be helpful.