Narcolepsy can be defined as episodes of excessive drowsiness during the day with a tendency to sleep at inappropriate times. The sleep episodes of narcolepsy are sometimes brought on by highly stressful situations and are not completely relieved by an amount of sleep. If you are experiencing these episodes, narcolepsy treatment may be an option. Like insomnia treatment, narcolepsy can be treated by maintaining good sleeping habits.
Although narcolepsy is a fairly uncommon condition, its impact on a person’s life can be serious and if not recognized and appropriately managed, disabling. A cure for narcolepsy has not yet been found, but most people with this disorder can lead nearly normal lives if the condition is properly treated.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
The four most common symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations that occur just before falling asleep.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness is usually the first symptom of narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy tend to fall asleep not only in situations that many people feel sleepy (after meals or during a lecture), but also when most people would remain awake (while watching a movie, writing a letter or driving).
Cataplexy Attacks are sudden, brief losses of muscle control. These attacks are sometimes the first symptom of narcolepsy, but more often develop months or years after the onset of sleepiness. Cataplexy is usually triggered by strong emotion, such as laughter, anger or surprise.
Sleep Paralysis is a brief loss of muscle control that occurs when a person is falling asleep or waking up. The person may be somewhat aware of the surroundings, but is unable to move or speak.
Hypnagogic Hallucinations are vivid, dreamlike experiences that occur when a person is drowsy. The hallucinations may involve disturbing images or sounds. These can be frightening because the person is partly awake but has no control over the events.
Treatment Options for Narcolepsy
Although narcolepsy cannot yet be cured, its symptoms can usually be controlled or improved so that sufferers experience symptoms less frequently and lead fairly normal lives. Because the array of symptoms are different in each person, the patient and sleep specialist must work together to plan a course of narcolepsy treatment.