Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. It can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, at times, causing you to fall asleep suddenly. In some cases, it can even cause hallucinations.
It’s estimated that up to 200,000 Americans have narcolepsy, but many are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. If you think you may be narcoleptic, getting a proper diagnosis is important so you can receive the right treatment. The experts at The Sleep Center are here to help. Click here to learn more about when to see a sleep specialist.
There are many unpleasant side effects to narcolepsy besides daytime sleepiness. People with narcolepsy may also experience other symptoms such as cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone), hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid dream-like experiences while falling asleep or waking up), and sleep paralysis (inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up). If you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from narcolepsy, a simple sleep test can provide a diagnosis.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
As we previously mentioned, the most common symptom of narcolepsy is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), which can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities such as work or school. Other symptoms include:
• Sudden sleep attacks – falling asleep without warning during the day
• Cataplexy – sudden loss of muscle tone; strong emotions can trigger this
• Hypnagogic hallucinations – vivid dream-like experiences while falling asleep or waking up
• Sleep paralysis – inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up
• Automatic behavior – performing tasks without being aware of them
Diagnosis of Narcolepsy
If you think you may have narcolepsy, you must see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. We’ll schedule an appointment when you contact us at The Sleep Center. There will be a short physical exam, and we will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. Lab work is sometimes required, and we might also suggest a sleep study. During a sleep study, we can perform Multiple Sleep Latency Tests (MSLT) to measure your sleeping patterns and determine if you have EDS due to narcolepsy.
Treatment for Narcolepsy
No one wants to receive a negative diagnosis. But the good news is that treatment options are available that give you peace of mind that can improve your normal sleep cycle and quality of life. Once diagnosed with narcolepsy, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that best fits your needs.
Treatment options include lifestyle changes such as getting enough restful sleep each night, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, exercising regularly, and avoiding heavy meals late in the day; medications such as stimulants; cognitive behavioral therapy; and other therapies such as yoga or acupuncture. With proper treatment, people with narcolepsy can lead full lives without disruption from their condition.
In closing, if you think you may have narcolepsy, getting a proper diagnosis is important so you can receive the right treatment for your condition. Contact us today to talk about any concerns or questions you may have about narcolepsy. The talented medical staff at The Sleep Center is here to help; we can diagnose your sleep issue and determine if it is the cause of your symptoms. We want you to get the treatment you need to lead a whole life without the uncomfortable side effects of narcolepsy.