Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sleep too Easy Narcolepsy Facts

Some narcolepsy facts state that anyone, at any age (although most symptoms are usually first noticed in teenagers or younger adults) can develop this sleep disorder that affects the nervous system. Narcolepsy often runs in families with 8 to 12 percent of people with narcolepsy having a close relative with this condition. It can cause excessive sleepiness, including frequent sleep attacks during the day. If you have narcolepsy it can have a huge impact on your active, busy lifestyle.

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Causes of narcolepsy, according to experts, is due to low levels of hyprocretin a protein made in the brain which makes the sufferers experience a strong, sudden urge to sleep. People have been known to have this urge after eating, diving a car or at a meeting and certain lifestyle factors and sleep conditions can make it worse. Some scientist have identified genes associated with narcolepsy the produce chemicals that signal our sleep/wake cycle. Also, researchers have discovered abnormalities in the brain that involve regulating REM sleep. Through this research the findings have deduced that this disorder involves multiple neurological dysfunctions and REM sleep instabilities.

Unfortunately many people today still believe that narcolepsy is a mental illness related to depression or anxiety. Doctors do prescribe antidepressant medication, but they only help the symptoms and not cure this potentially deadly disorder. Through all the years of research doctors still haven’t found a cure. Having a narcoleptic episode is not in itself fatal, but if you have a sleep attack while driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery it can be.

According to WebMD these are the Symptoms or Signs of Narcolepsy:

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): In general, EDS interferes with normal activities on a daily basis, whether or not a person with narcolepsy has sufficient sleep at night. People with EDS report mental cloudiness, a lack of energy and concentration, memory lapses, a depressed mood, and/or extreme exhaustion.

Cataplexy: This symptom consists of a sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to feelings of weakness and a loss of voluntary muscle control. It can cause symptoms ranging from slurred speech to total body collapse depending on the muscles involved and is often triggered by intense emotion, for example surprise, laughter, or anger.

Hallucinations: Usually, these delusional experiences are vivid and frequently they are frightening. The content is primarily visual, but any of the other senses can be involved. These are called hypnagogic hallucinations when accompanying sleep onset and hypnopompic hallucinations when occurring during awakening.

Sleep paralysis: This symptom involves the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. These episodes are generally brief lasting a few seconds to several minutes. After episodes end, people rapidly recover their full capacity to move and speak.

Narcolepsy is diagnosed with an extensive physical exam and several specialized tests because none of the major symptoms are exclusive to this disorder. Many other medical conditions cause excessive sleepiness such as; insomnia, restless leg syndrome, seizures and sleep apnea. Blood work, an ECG which monitors the heart and an EEG that registers brain activity can rule out some of the other medical disorders. A thorough family medical history is also essential for proper diagnosis.

The two specialized tests are usually done in a clinic or sleep lab are the polysomnogram (PSG) and the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). The PSG is an overnight test that measures the patients REM sleep and can help determine if the symptoms are from another condition. The MSLT is performed during the day to measure the person’s tendency to fall asleep and whether isolated elements of REM sleep intrude during inappropriate times while awake. Also the patient will be required to take four or five short (15-20 minute) naps, scheduled two hours apart and they will be monitored to determine how quick they fall asleep. Narcoleptics have a tendency to fall asleep faster than a person without the disorder.

Although there is no cure most of the symptoms can be controlled with medication. The most common drugs prescribed are stimulants such as modafinil, dextroamphetamine or methylphenidate (Ritalin) to keep narcoleptics awake during the day. If someone is diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy the drug Xyrem helps them get a better night’s sleep allowing them to be less sleepy during the day. Antidepressants help with sleep paralysis and hallucinations.

A narcoleptic can make lifestyle changes to reduce sleep attacks by eliminating caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and heavy meals. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, taking daytime power nap and incorporating an exercise routine can manage the symptoms of narcolepsy. If you are concern about narcolepsy make an appointment with your doctor. If you are taking prescription medication and have side effects tell you doctor as he may change the dose or the type of medication you are taking. The key is to seek medical help and make the right choices to lessen the symptoms of your narcolepsy.

What It Feels Like To Have Narcolepsy*

By Jimmy Kimmel, 35, Host of Jimmy Kimmel Live
Esquire August 2003

“Truth be told, I'd rather have narcolepsy than not have it. When I get on a flight to Vegas, I'll fall asleep before the plane takes off and wake up after it's landed. I'm always very close to sleep.”[Yawns.]

“I had no idea I had it until recently. All I knew about narcolepsy was a character on Hill Street Blues, Vic Hitler the Narcoleptic Comic, who would fall asleep in the middle of his act. But I did know that every afternoon between about three and six, I would get very tired for no reason. I would doze off in meetings, watching TV, even driving. You know how when you're regular tired, your whole body is tired? With narcolepsy, just the inside of your head is tired. It's like somebody's gently sitting on your brain. You have almost no focus. All you're thinking about is not falling asleep.”

“When I was emceeing Win Ben Stein's Money, I actually fell asleep during the show a few times. I would sit on the safe over to the side and just sort of doze off. But that was probably a combination of the narcolepsy and Ben's voice. Another time I was on the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic. My head was diving, then jerking back up. All of a sudden, this loud voice over a megaphone says, "Are you awake enough to drive that vehicle?" And I practically jumped out of my skin. It was the police, one lane over”.

“Anyway, I just always figured I wasn't getting enough sleep, so I would drink gallons of iced tea to get me through the afternoon. Finally I went to a doctor. When I told him how much iced tea I drank, he said, "What?!" He decided I was self-medicating, and he prescribed these pills called Provigil. I have a pretty mild case with no other symptoms. Some narcoleptics experience cataplexy, which is a limpness in the arms and legs. I don't have that. I'd like to, though. It sounds great.”

“I've never used my narcolepsy in my work, though I do have a dream to someday use up an entire hour of television time by sleeping. Have I been approached to be the public face of narcolepsy? No, nobody wants me associated with their groups. I hope that changes, though. I would like to be to narcolepsy what Camille Grammer is to irritable-bowel syndrome.”

-As told to Brendan Vaughan

*The interview for this article was scheduled for 11:00 A.M., April 23, 2003. It was postponed until 2:30 P.M. because Jimmy was napping.

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Narcolepsy Network ( is a non-profit organization dedicated to individuals with narcolepsy and related sleep disorders. Our mission is to provide services to educate, advocate, support and improve awareness of this neurological sleep disorder.

Stratosphere Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Pre-conference events Thursday, October 13, 2011
Conference Sessions: Friday Morning, October 14, 2011
Through Sunday Afternoon, October 16, 2011

The content provided in Narcolepsy Facts is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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