Narcolepsy or Daytime sleepiness
a very serious condition that can have severe
repercussions. For the person with narcolepsy,
waking hours can be danger zones. Most activities,
including driving, working, cooking or even just
walking, can be very dangerous if the person doing
them falls asleep or loses muscle control
unexpectedly. In addition to the physical danger
presented by the condition, people who suffer from
narcolepsy often lose control of their lives in many
ways. Some people lose their jobs or are unable to
perform them adequately, resulting in financial
difficulty. Most lose the ability to drive, thus
giving up some freedom and independence and many
suffer from depression related to the uncontrollable
changes in their lives due to the narcolepsy. At
this point, there is not a cure for narcolepsy so
finding a way to treat the symptoms allows many
people to keep living a somewhat normal life.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of narcolepsy include:
The primary characteristic of narcolepsy is overwhelming drowsiness
and an uncontrollable need to sleep during the day. People with
narcolepsy fall asleep without warning, anywhere and at any time.
For example, you may suddenly nod off while at work or talking with
friends. You may sleep for just a few minutes or up to a half-hour
before awakening and feeling refreshed, but then you fall asleep
again. In addition to sleeping at inappropriate times and places,
you also may experience decreased alertness throughout the day.
Excessive daytime sleepiness usually is the first symptom to appear
and is often the most troublesome, making it difficult for you to
concentrate and function fully.
This is the sudden loss of muscle tone. Cataplexy can cause a range
of physical changes, from slurred speech to total physical collapse,
and may last for a few seconds to a few minutes. Cataplexy is
uncontrollable and is often triggered by intense emotions, such as
laughter, fear, surprise or anger, or sometimes by strenuous
activity. For example, your head may droop uncontrollably when you
laugh or your knees may suddenly buckle while you're working out.
Some people with narcolepsy experience only one or two episodes of
cataplexy a year, while others have numerous episodes each day.
About 70 percent of people with narcolepsy experience cataplexy.
Less commonly, people with narcolepsy experience a temporary
inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking.
These episodes are usually brief — rarely lasting for more than 10
minutes — but they can be frightening. You may be aware of the
condition and have no difficulty recalling it afterward, even if you
had no control over what was happening to you. Normal sleep
paralysis is characteristic of the immobility that often accompanies
rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the period of sleep during which
most dreaming occurs. The immobility of REM may prevent your body
from acting out dream activity.
These hallucinations may take place when a person with narcolepsy
falls quickly into REM sleep, as they do periodically during the
day. Because you may be semiawake when you begin dreaming, you
experience your dreams as reality, and they may be particularly
vivid and frightening.
Other signs and symptoms of narcolepsy include restless nighttime sleep
and occasional automatic behavior. During episodes of automatic
behavior, you continue to function during sleep episodes — even talking
and putting things away, for example — but you awaken with no memory of
performing such activities. As many as 40 percent of people with
narcolepsy experience automatic behavior during sleep attacks.
The first signs and symptoms of narcolepsy usually first appear between
the ages of 10 and 25, but the condition can occur at any age.
Narcolepsy is chronic, which means signs and symptoms may vary in
severity, but never go away entirely. Cataplexy, however, may subside