Narcolepsy: Symptoms and How to Avoid It
Narcolepsy is not as common as other sleeping disorders, hence why not many people have a deep understanding of what it is and what it does. But for the unfortunate people who have experienced will know how harmful it is.
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Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes you to feel extremely sleepy during the day and wakes you up at random times of sleep. What’s scariest about this condition is that people who suffer from it feel they have no control over it. It can lead to sleep apnoea, fatigue, and depression. It’s important to understand how people develop it and how we can treat it.
Causes of Narcolepsy
After people learn that they may have narcolepsy, how its caused is the first question on most people’s minds. The truth is, it is still unknown as to how it is developed in the first place.
However, scientific studies on the condition have identified that genes, as well as lifestyle habits, may correlate narcolepsy. It is believed that certain genes are responsible for the production of a chemical in the brain that may signal sleep and wake cycles.
Other research has indicated that narcolepsy may also be caused by a deficiency or abnormality in the brain. This affects the brain’s ability to regulate REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Though more extensive research needs to be made about what causes narcolepsy, most causes are out of our control. Changing our sleeping habits, however, is a good way to prevent any sleeping disorders as well as reducing the chances of narcolepsy.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
1. Uncontrollable day time sleepiness
One of the most obvious symptoms of narcolepsy is when people fall asleep suddenly without notice. People don’t even notice that they are drifting off into sleep. It can happen very suddenly and abruptly.
For example, you may be conscious of energy, and within seconds, you can be deep asleep for a couple of minutes up to half an hour. When you wake up, you are completely oblivious to the fact you just fell asleep. This symptom also leads to decreased general focus and overall awareness.
2. Changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
It is this part of sleep when you do your dreaming. It means that your eyes are rapidly moving while shut. People with narcolepsy will experience REM sleep at any time during the day. After 15 minutes of randomly falling asleep, REM sleep is likely to occur. This also increases the likeliness that we are having dreams whenever we sleep in the middle of the day.
3. Sudden loss of muscle tone
This condition is also known as cataplexy. It can cause multiple physical changes and not just a loss of muscle tone. It can cause weakness in muscles as well as joints. Cataplexy can also cause people to slur their speech or even drool.
It is caused when poor is triggered by intense emotions, which can either be positive or negative ones. People with cataplexy also lose weight quite easily.
4. Sleep paralysis
Sleep paralysis is when you are temporarily unable to move your body or speak upon waking up. Even though you are fully conscious and aware of your surroundings, you feel completely paralyzed and helpless.
Sleep paralysis normally occurs during REM sleep. People with narcolepsy are likely to experience episodes of sleep paralysis.
There are two types of hallucination related to narcolepsy; hypnagogic and hypnopompic. Hypnagogic is a hallucination that happens as you are falling asleep, while hallucinations upon waking up are called hypnopompic.
Both types of hallucinations are similar to sleep paralysis and can cause you great amounts of fear or stress. It is because whatever you are dreaming, it is blurred with reality.
Managing and Avoiding Narcolepsy
Small changes in your lifestyle may help you to manage your narcolepsy so that it isn’t too severe. If you haven’t been diagnosed with narcolepsy, then taking these extra measures will prevent you from ever developing it. Here are a few tips on how to manage or avoid narcolepsy.
- Create a sleeping schedule with the optimal amount of sleeping hours
- Stay consistent every night with your bedtime routine
- Try not to sleep unless you are actually sleepy
- Ensure your physical sleeping condition are comfortable and help you to relax, e.g. lighting, temperature, pillow softness
- Avoid eating or drinking too much before bed
- Get regular physical activity and watch your diet
When to See a Doctor?
If you notice you have a sleeping disorder, be sure to see a doctor. If your sleep is being disrupted in some way, it is also important to seek professional advice, too. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better.
Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.
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