Narcolepsy is a disorder of the nerves, which affects controlling of sleep. Those who suffer from narcolepsy experience excessive sleepiness during daytime and also fall asleep suddenly in the middle of any type of an activity.
Normally, our sleeping cycle has a number of stages: early stage, deep stage and rapid eye movement stage.
For those suffering from narcolepsy, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs almost immediately after entering the sleep cycle and also from time to time during the waking hours.
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This disorder generally occurs between the age of 15 and 25 years. Narcolepsy remains undiagnosed in many cases.
Causes Of Narcolepsy:
Though the exact cause of narcolepsy is not known yet, scientists have tried to understand the genes that are associated with this disorder.
These genes control the production of chemicals in the brain that may cause cycles of sleep and awake. A group of experts believe that narcolepsy is caused by the deficiency in the brain's production of a chemical called hypocretin.
Researchers have also found abnormalities in the functioning of various parts of the brain that result in the disorder of the REM sleep. Experts believe narcolepsy is the result of an interaction of a number of factors.
Symptoms Of Narcolepsy:
• Too much sleepiness during daytime
• Depression, fatigue, problems in concentration, etc.
• Loss of control over muscles
• Speech problem
• Lapse in memory
• Sleep paralysis, which involves a temporary inability to act while falling asleep or waking up
Physical examination and a check-up of the medical history are some of the usual ways for a proper diagnosis of narcolepsy. Polysomnogram and multiple sleep latency test are two important tests that are done to diagnose this sleep disorder. The first one is an overnight test while the second is conducted during the daytime.
There is no cure for this disorder as such; but it can surely be controlled with the help of medication. Stimulants and antidepressant medicines can be used to treat the sleepiness.
But more than the drugs, controlling narcoleptic sensations requires a good eating habit and lifestyle. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are things one should simply give up on to improve the condition.
Heavy eating should also be avoided. Having a routine eating and sleeping schedule and doing physical exercises also help in minimising the symptoms. Even daytime sleeping of short durations can help in controlling the disorder.