Narcolepsy

NARCOLEPSY / SYMPTOMS

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder with no known cause. The it is best described as excessive daytime sleepiness, even after a good nights rest. A person with narcolepsy is likely to become drowsy or to fall asleep. No matter what the time or place the person with this diease can fall asleep. Daytime sleep attacks may happen with or without warning and may be impossible to prevent. These attacks can
Happen more than once a day. Drowsiness may linger for extended periods of time. Also nighttime sleep may be scattered with waking up frequently. Other symptoms of narcolepsy, which may not occur in all people, are cataplexy which are sudden times of loss of muscle function, spanning from a slight weakness (such as limpness at the neck or knees) to a collapse. Attacks like this can be triggered by sudden changes in emotion like laughter, anger, or fear. This type of symptom or reaction can last from a few seconds to several minutes. The person most likely remains conscious throughout the period of\'time.
The next symptom of narcolepsy is sleep paralysis. This is not being able to talk or move
when falling asleep or waking up. It may last a few seconds to minutes. Another symptom of narcolepsy are hallucinations. They can be vivid, often frightening, experiences that occur while dozing off or falling asleep.
Daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations can also occur in people who do not have narcolepsy. In most cases, the first symptom of narcolepsy to have is overwhelming daytime sleepiness. The other symptoms may begin alone or in combination months or years after the daytime sleep attacks. There are wide variaties in the development, severity, and order of appearance of the symptoms in individuals. Only about 20 to 25 percent of people with narcolepsy experience all four symptoms. The excessive daytime sleepiness generally persists throughout life, but sleep paralysis and hallucinations may not. The symptoms of narcolepsy, especially the daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, often become severe enough to cause serious disruptions in a person\'s social, personal, and professional lives and severely limit activities.

WARNING SIGNS

Warning signs that you could have narcolepsy are:
1. You often feel excessively sleepy during the day, even after having had a full night\'s sleep;
2. You fall asleep when you do not intend to, such as while having dinner, talking, driving, or working;
3. You collapse suddenly or your neck muscles feel too weak to hold up your head when you laugh or become angry, surprised, or shocked
4. You find yourself briefly unable to talk or move while falling asleep or waking up.





HOW COMMON IS IT / WHO CAN GET IT / WHAT
HAPPENS?

Although it is said that narcolepsy affects as many as 200,000 Americans, less than 50,000 are diagnosed. It is as large as Parkinson\'s disease or multiple sclerosis but it is not as known. Narcolepsy is often mistaken for depression or possible the side effects of medications. Narcolepsy can occur in both men and women at any age, although its symptoms are usually first seen in teenagers. There is evidence that narcolepsy may run in families; 8 to 12 percent of people with narcolepsy have a close relative with the disease.
Normally, when an individual is awake, brain waves show a regular rhythm. When a person first falls asleep, the brain waves become slower and less regular. This sleep state is called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. After about an hour and a half of NREM sleep, the brain waves begin to show a more active pattern again, even though the person is in deep sleep. This sleep state, called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when dreaming occurs. In narcolepsy, the order and length of NREM and REM sleep periods are disturbed, with REM sleep occurring at sleep onset instead of after a period of NREM sleep.
Narcolepsy is a disorder in which REM sleep appears at an abnormal time. Also, some of the aspects of REM sleep that normally occur only during sleep--lack of muscle tone, sleep paralysis, and vivid dreams--occur at other times in people with narcolepsy. For example, the lack of muscle tone can occur during wakefulness in a cataplexy episode. Sleep paralysis and vivid dreams can occur while falling asleep or waking up.

How Narcolepsy is Diagnosed

Diagnosis is relatively easy when all the