What is Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by a frequent, and sometimes uncontrollable, desire for sleep. This can result in sudden lapses into sleep any time, any place. The result is that normal patterns and rhythms of sleeping become abnormal. For example, someone suffering from narcolepsy may end up sleeping several times during the day and then having trouble sleeping at night. If you think you may have Narcolepsy, here are five signs that can help you determine if you need to see a sleep specialist or not.
5 Primary Narcolepsy Symptoms
1. Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak right after waking up or right before sleep. Naturally, these events can be very scary if you don't know why you suddenly can't move. Also, these attacks can last minutes. However, they aren't dangerous.
2. Sleep attacks
A sleep attack is a sudden onset of extreme sleepiness. Often they call for someone with Narcolepsy to go find a quiet place to rest for a few minutes, but they can be so extreme that one has sudden onset of sleep anywhere and anytime (though this is rare).
3. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is also common for people who have Narcolepsy because of irregular sleep patterns that lead to loss of quality sleep.
Cataplexy is an episode in which you suddenly lose muscle tone, causing weakness or limpness. This can be isolated to one body part, such as having slack jaw, or it can happen to your entire body, causing you to collapse. Cataplexy happens in response to strong emotions experienced by narcoleptics.
Cataplexy is one reason why stigmas about narcolepsy are that people suddenly fall asleep in the middle of everyday activities, when in fact this is uncommon. Cataplexy might look more like falling down or loss of balance, instead.
5 - Hallucinations
About half of Narcoleptics will also experience hallucinations before falling asleep (hypnagogic) or right after waking up (hypnapoptic). These take the form of dream-like visions or delusions. They may involve several sensations at the same time as opposed to just visual experiences. Essentially, this happens because REM sleep shows up when it isn’t supposed to.
How to Identify Narcolepsy Symptoms
If you have Narcolepsy, you might look for some of the hallmark symptoms listed above. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you suffer from sudden, unexplained sleepiness that’s not related to other factors (i.e., sugar crash)?
- Do you sometimes wake up in inappropriate places, like work, and not remember falling asleep?
- Do you have bouts of being unable to move before sleep or after waking up?
Effects of Narcolepsy on your Life
There is no doubt that Narcolepsy will impact your life, however, with a few accommodations these impacts can be minimal. Some things that might require aid or be off limits for people with Narcolepsy include:
- Job consistency
- Using heavy/risky machinery
- Doing high risk work (surgery, oil and gas, fishing)
- Parenting and pregnancy with Narcolepsy have a whole host of smaller concerns
- Sleep deprivation also comes with a host of serious concerns as well
How to Combat Narcolepsy
Currently there is no cure for Narcolepsy, and management can involve a lot of medications, which unfortunately don’t always affect people in the same way. Managing Narcolepsy will require careful attention to many things people without Narcolepsy don’t have to be concerned about. For example:
- Certain activities will be off limits, like driving or operating heavy machinery
- Certain jobs will be off limits
- Managing daily life will require “work around”, such as being able to take a nap at work if needed
- Coffee is a double edged sword, helping through sleep attacks but further inhibiting normalizing sleeping patterns
- Sleep partners should be aware of hallucinations and sleep paralysis, which can be scary for them if they don’t know how to identify and react to it
- For Cataplexy, Narcoleptics may need to practice exercises to avoid strong emotional reactions, such as meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, etc.
Diagnosis require a sleep study. If this article strikes close to home and reminds you of your daily life, please contact us immediately by taking this online sleep test.