Narcolepsy ashansiam February 10, 2022

What is Narcolepsy?

  • Narcolepsy is a sleep related neurological disorder causing excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Patients who are having this condition easily falls into short spells of sleep during daytime.
  • These sleep spells are not refreshing.
  • These patients can have sudden drop attacks without losing consciousness. These attacks may be triggered by emotional stimuli (e.g.- laughter).
  • Some narcolepsy patients experience total body paralysis on waking up from sleep.
  • Some patients with narcolepsy experience seeing, feeling or hearing things on falling asleep or on waking up.
What are the complications of Narcolepsy?
  • Narcolepsy can lead to serious disruptions to the daily routine.
  • Sudden sleep attacks may occur at any time during the day. These attacks may occur while driving leading to road traffic accidents. These may even occur while cooking leading to burn injuries.
  • People with narcolepsy are more likely to be overweight.
  • Psycho-sexual disturbances such as depression, impotence and infertility are common among these patients.
When should you suspect Narcolepsy?
  • A person with narcolepsy typically has excessive daytime sleepiness. They may fall asleep suddenly with no warning at any place at any time.
  • Sudden drop attacks or weakness may associate with fear or laughter.
  • They may also experience vivid dreams or hallucinations as they fall asleep or on awakening.
  • Sleep paralysis is the inability to consciously move or speak whilst falling asleep or upon awakening.
  • Reduced alertness and concentration throughout the day.
How is Narcolepsy diagnosed?
  • Narcolepsy is diagnosed after a comprehensive neurological evaluation followed by a detailed overnight sleep study with a sleep latency test by a Neurophysiologist.
How can you treat Narcolepsy?
  • In order to minimize the impact on daily activities these patients are helped by lifestyle modifications and certain medications.
  • Lifestyle modifications,
    • Implementing and maintaining good Sleep Hygiene (regular awake and sleep cycles) is essential in managing Narcolepsy. Furthermore, healthy diet, quitting smoking, minimizing alcohol intake and being physically active too play a role in the management.
    • If you have concerns about medication induced sleepiness, please discuss with your treating doctor.
    • Make sure you discuss about the condition and alternative options such as flexible working hours with your employer.
    • Avoid high risk activities such as driving or cooking till your physician is happy with your symptom control.
  • Medications – after a thorough evaluation suitable medications are chosen by the treating neurologist.
  • Narcolepsy is a life-long sleeping disorder. The symptoms may vary in severity during your lifespan, but they never completely go away.
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