Seeing as it’s slowly becoming a more widespread phenomenon, it is important to take a look at what is narcolepsy. Today about 1 in every 2000 people worldwide are affected by it. Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological sleeping disorder, which no treated can result in serious repercussion on your physical, mental and social well-being. While it is a lifelong condition, if you make the correct lifestyle changes and are cautious about medication, you can enjoy a fully normal and active life with heavily reduced symptoms and affects.
What is Narcolepsy – A Definition
It is simply defined as a chronic disorder affecting the central nervous system, whereby the brain in unable to control our sleep-wake cycles, resulting in periods of extreme irresistible daytime sleepiness, lasting from seconds to minutes. There are mixed signals sent by the brain, whereby sleep episodes can come about at anytime, while you’re eating, playing, driving etc. The ambiguous and uncertain sleep patterns often lead to accidents now and then due to the possibility of falling asleep while eating, cooking, driving, playing etc.
What is Narcolepsy – Period of Onset
One can develop narcolepsy at any point in life, though it usually occurs after puberty, during the years of early adulthood. However, it is important to know that even when one has the condition, it’s level of seriousness always varies, it usually takes years for the symptoms to progress to a point where it becomes a matter of concern. Due to it’s slow progressive nature, the disorder commonly goes undiagnosed for a while and when symptoms start to show, it usually points towards a general neurological disorder.
What is Narcolepsy – Causes
Looking at the causes of narcolepsy, much of it is still uncertain, as there is ongoing research to find a specific cause of the condition. There are possibly multiple factors that can bring about narcolepsy in any one person. It is completely sporadic and hence one doesn’t require family history to get it, hence genetics doesn’t play a big role. Other factors such as hormonal changes, high stress levels, trauma or a immune-system dysfunction are said to contribute to the inception of the condition.
What is Narcolepsy – Symptoms
Individuals suffering from narcolepsy, experience a number of primary symptoms, followed by secondary symptoms, which most often varies from person to person. The main symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, abnormal REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and cataplexy (loss of muscle control). Other symptoms of narcolepsy include the generation of strong emotions such as laughing or crying, one could experience vivid, visual or auditory hallucinations when awakening or dropping asleep. Sleep paralysis is a common side affect for small time periods along with microsleep, which are brief sleep episodes during which your body carries out other functions such as talking, walking etc.
What is Narcolepsy – Diagnosis
When hinted at, though no easily possible, there are certain tests that doctors can perform to test for and diagnose narcolepsy in an individual. In addition to the general symptoms, doctors carry out certain special methods such as, a nocturnal polysomnogram, where by the electrical activity of the brain and heart are measured overnight, along with muscle and eye movement. Sometimes a multiple sleep latency test is carried out, which measures how long it takes one to fall asleep during the day. And finally a spinal fluid analysis, the lack of hypocretin in the fluid can mark narcolepsy, this chemical results for the feeling of alertness when awake and helps in sleep regulation.
Therfore, it is important to look at the root causes, symptoms and ways of diagnosis, to fully understand what is narcolepsy.