Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy

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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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    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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    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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    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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    The treatment for narcolepsy usually involves taking medications to reduce sleepiness during the day and in those who have cataplexy, other medications to prevent cataplexy. The medications to prevent sleep during the day are a group of medicines called stimulants that includes Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, Provigil and others. Cataplexy is usually treated with antidepressant medications that repress REM (dreaming) sleep such as Tofranil, Norpramin, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

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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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    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.

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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.

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    A , Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answered
    If 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.
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    If you have narcolepsy, an antidepressant may help regulate your REM sleep cycle and alleviate the cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations you may have. Prescription stimulants may help keep you awake during the day. Sodium oxybate may help you sleep only at night and may relieve cataplexy. All of these drugs can have serious side effects; as with all prescription medicines, be sure to follow your doctor's orders.

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