This may sound surprising but despite 200,000 people in the USA suffering from this illness, not many are aware of what narcolepsy is all about leave alone have any information about narcolepsy treatments or how doctors treat this completely disabling sleep disorder.
Every time we fall sick, we want to be treated fast. The same rush is common when it concerns treating this sleep disorder as well. Unfortunately, treatment is not very easy. By far an untreatable condition, doctors attempt to minimize the severity of the narcolepsy symptoms by administering drugs along with certain lifestyle modifications as well as several self-help strategies.
But let us go back a few steps and know a bit more about what the disorder is all about.
Basic information about narcolepsy
Narcolepsy sleep disorder is a result of neurological dysfunction. Chronic daytime sleepiness is the biggest indicator of the onset of the condition. This happens due to the brain’s inability to monitor the normal sleep-wake cycles.
Expected symptoms of narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is known for the sudden and repeated daytime sleep attacks. A victim usually has disturbed sleep patterns that is marred even further by frequent waking. The initial signs start to show between 15 and 30 years of age and usually remain for life.
There are four typical manifestations of this disorder, but only 25% of patients display all four:
– Excessive daytime sleepiness is a distinctive sign of this disorder experienced by 90% of patients.
– Cataplexy attacks: such attacks disable the patient to hold on to any object, weakening of knee muscles, jaws dropping etc.
– Sleep paralysis makes the patient incapable of walking or talking on waking up or while he or she is asleep.
– Hallucinations are another sign where the patient has vivid dreams or nightmares during sleep.
Misleading sign that could lead to misdiagnosis
When two or more disorders share the same indicative feature, the worst sufferer is the patient who faces an increased risk of misdiagnosis. Confusion reigns when it concerns diagnosing narcolepsy as excessive daytime sleepiness also happen to be a ruling sign of sleep apnea, though not the primary symptom. Moreover, the age of onset is also different from the age when narcolepsy sets in.
Hypersomnia is another sleep disorder that shares the same feature. The only difference is that unlike narcolepsy, this disorder does not result in sudden sleep attacks.
What causes this disorder?
Some likely triggers responsible for the onset of the condition have been identified as: low levels of hypocretin, hereditary factors, disorders affecting the central nervous system, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
Treatments involve medication and more
The primary aims of all treatment modalities for treating this disorder are geared towards increasing daytime alertness and reduce other manifestations of the disabling disorder. Over and above the prescribed medicines, there are several other components that also play important role in allowing the patient to have an improved quality of life. These include counseling of family and friends, self-help and lifestyle modifications.
Self-help strategies that form an important part of narcolepsy treatments involve keeping strict bedtime schedules, doing relaxation exercises, bettering sleep hygiene, planning daytime naps, reducing stress, weight loss and more.
Marc MacDonald is a health researcher on excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, and obstructive sleep apnea, among others. To discover more helpful details on this article’s subject, visit his treatment for narcolepsy website.