There are many different sleep disorders, but if there is one that is most commonly represented in movies, it would have to be narcolepsy. This is a strange and interesting sleep disorder that intrigues a lot of people, but in reality affects very few.
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that limits a person’s ability to control when, where, and how they fall asleep. Those who suffer from narcolepsy are prone to falling asleep in inappropriate places or at inappropriate times with little or no notice at all.
What Is Narcolepsy?
A sure sign of narcolepsy is when you see someone suddenly fall asleep, essentially mid-sentence. Their level of sleep can be so severe that they could fall and hurt themselves, so in many ways it is as if they have passed out.
Narcolepsy is not a sign of excessive tiredness, though that is often one of the symptoms. Rather, this is a neurological issue that should be addressed.
What Are The Symptoms?
There are numerous symptoms of narcolepsy that can occur long before a person is properly diagnosed. The most common of the symptoms is when a person suffers from what is commonly known as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), during which they are so fatigued during the day that they are unable to perform their normal functions at school or work, or have such a lack of energy or concentration that they can do nothing else but rest.
Another symptom of narcolepsy would be hallucinations. These are commonly very vivid and frightening and can occur immediately before the person falls asleep. Sleep paralysis is a similar type of experience that occurs as a person is falling asleep or waking up, during which they feel as if they are paralyzed or trapped within their body.
How Does This Affect A Person?
People with chronic narcolepsy have very limited lives because of the fact that their behavior is so erratic. They have the potential to fall asleep at anytime, which leaves them at constant risk.
People with narcolepsy cannot drive a vehicle or operate machinery of any kind, and rarely are they able to hold down a legitimate job. Obviously, this is a pretty severe sleep disorder and one that should be treated and address as quickly as possible.
The other way in which narcolepsy affects a person is that it can really limit the amount of sleep that they get on a regular basis. People with this problem tend to be extremely tired or fatigued almost all of the time, which only makes the problem worse.
Even though they can theoretically fall asleep at anytime, they may find going to sleep at night very difficult. This leads to extremely disrupted sleep patterns, and creates a vicious circle for them.
How Is This Treated?
The first step in treating narcolepsy is getting a proper diagnosis, which can actually be somewhat difficult. Some doctors do not believe this actually exists in spite of the fact that there are significant studies proving it does.
If your family practitioner or general physician does not recognize this as an issue for you, then it is worth seeking out a doctor who specializes in sleep studies or narcolepsy in particular.
There are several different tests that can be done, including sleep studies that will help to determine if you are suffering from narcolepsy and perhaps any underlying reasons that may exist.
Once you have been diagnosed with narcolepsy, you will then be provided with a number of different treatment options. It should be said that there is no significant cure available at this time but there are treatments that can help to eliminate the symptoms and make a sufferer’s life more livable.
Is There A Cure?
Since there is no cure for narcolepsy, if you have been diagnosed with this sleep disorder then you will probably be put on one of several different prescription medications.
Many people are prescribed various amphetamine-like stimulants to ensure that they do not fall asleep at inappropriate times, while if you have a type of narcolepsy that includes cataplexy, then there is a new medication available that may be able to help you.
As is the case with many sleep disorder issues, there are some simple changes that you can make to your lifestyle that may help to alleviate many of the symptoms you are experiencing.
These include eliminating caffeine, nicotine, watching your diet, losing weight so you are at a proper BMI, and eating a more reasonable and uniformed meal schedule. When these are combined with a proper diagnosis and medications, you may be able to enjoy a life that is free from symptoms of narcolepsy.
Last Updated 11 July 2013
1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Accessed 11 July 2013)
2. Mayo Clinic (Accessed 11 July 2013)
3. WebMD (Accessed 11 July 2013)
4. NHS Choices (Accessed 11 July 2013)