What is Narcolepsy? Hint: It’s More Than Feeling Tired

Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder in which a person (even with an adequate night’s rest) experiences excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness.  Daytime sleep attacks occur repeatedly with or without warning.

This sleep disorder occurs equally in men and women and is thought to affect roughly 1 in 2,000 people. The symptoms appear in childhood or adolescence, but many people have symptoms of narcolepsy for years before getting a proper diagnosis. Left untreated, narcolepsy can cause serious disruptions in a person’s social, personal and professional lives.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

People with narcolepsy feel very sleepy during the day and may involuntarily fall asleep during normal activities. In narcolepsy, the normal boundary between awake and asleep is blurred so characteristics of sleeping can occur while a person is awake. For example, cataplexy is the muscle paralysis of REM sleep occurring during waking hours. It causes sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to a slack jaw, or weakness of the arms, legs, or trunk. People with narcolepsy can also experience dream-like hallucinations and paralysis as they are falling asleep or waking up, as well as disrupted nighttime sleep and vivid nightmares.

Getting Support

Narcolepsy is diagnosed by a physical exam, taking a medical history, as well as conducting sleep studies. If you do have narcolepsy, the most effective treatment is often a combination of medications and behavioral changes. People who are diagnosed with narcolepsy should seek counseling through educational networks and support groups. Getting a diagnosis of narcolepsy and managing the symptoms can be overwhelming and the disorder is not well understood by the general public. It helps to learn best practices and access support through others who have the disorder.

Currently, there is no cure for narcolepsy, but medications and behavioral treatments can improve symptoms for people so they can lead normal, productive lives. The first step to a sleep study is setting up an initial visit with a sleep specialist who will review your medical and sleep history. You will then schedule an appointment for an overnight visit.

Finally…

The Sleep Disorders Center at Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic is a comprehensive clinic supervised by a physician board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and is a Diplomate, American Board of Sleep Medicine. Using the latest technology for diagnosing and treating sleep disorders in a comfortable and home-like atmosphere, our team of sleep professionals is dedicated to providing the highest quality of sleep for our patients. We are here to help! Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

(Some information provided by the National Sleep Foundation).

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