Have you ever fallen asleep unexpectedly or at the wrong time? One minute you were wide awake, the next you are dropping off, and it can happen at the most inopportune moment. Spending time with family? Running for the bus? In the middle of that important business meeting? There seems to be no way of knowing when or where, and it feels like it can strike without warning. It can be embarrassing and have a profound effect on your life. You may fall asleep suddenly and lose control which can be frightening, but what can be the reason? Could it be possible you may be suffering from the condition known as narcolepsy?
It is a name seldom heard, but how much do you really know about it? The first thing to remember is, although there is no medical remedy for narcolepsy, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself, heighten your awareness and decrease the symptoms.
You should also be aware that narcolepsy is an acute neurological disorder impacting the portion of the human brain controlling sleep. The condition can make you sleep for long hours during the day and experience what is called cataplexy; where you lose muscle control all of a sudden. You may fall asleep for only a matter of seconds, it can still be frightening and potentially hazardous. What if it should occur when you are driving or at work? There are also physical and psychological ramifications to consider, as well as how it effects your day to day life?
You could harm yourself while cooking, cleaning the home or even out walking. Narcolepsy can cause confusion, concentration and memory problems, as well as affecting you emotionally. It is not uncommon for sufferers to experience mental health issues, anxiety and depression. It can even impact your home life and personal relationships.
People may experience a wide variety of symptoms of narcolepsy, which may differ depending on the individual, many suffer from abnormal REM sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. These may be along with possibly suffering hallucinations, sleep paralysis, sleepless nights; often with heightened alertness, increased heart rate and hot flushes, amongst other side effects.
Narcolepsy can indeed be a very deliberating condition and research has been carried out to try and determine the actual cause. Many believe it may be linked to genetics or possibly connected to some sort of virus or illness which could have altered a person’s brain chemistry, resulting in narcolepsy. Some say your emotional state may play a part in when you experience an episode.
Experts have noted that individuals suffering from narcolepsy may be deprived of a chemical in the brain which regulates sleep called Hypocretin, otherwise referred to as orexin.
They may be lacking in the neurons that produce hypocretin, known as Hcrt cells, which can affect control alertness and cause you to fall asleep unexpectedly. However, the science community is working on a way to increase hypocretin levels artificially, to counteract the effects of narcolepsy.
It is widely felt changes in your lifestyle, undergoing counselling and self-help can help you deal with the symptoms of narcolepsy. However, in many cases, those suffering from narcolepsy are reluctant to go to the doctor. They may experience only the one symptom, daytime sleepiness, which they may not attribute to narcolepsy but to other disorders or medical complaint, like epilepsy. Some people may also put their tiredness down to emotional problems such as depression or a medical complaint. However, if you suspect you may be suffering from narcolepsy, you should consult your GP and tell him or her all about your symptoms.
Narcolepsy can be difficult to diagnose sometimes, but by knowing the facts, it could put you on the path to managing your condition and live a full life.