Narcolepsy is not a very commonly found disorder and affects about 1 in 2000 people. This genetic disorder initially affects people between the ages of 10 and 25 and becomes a lifelong condition. With specific lifestyle changes and appropriate medication can help to reduce symptoms.
Narcolepsy Symptoms – Difficult to Diagnose
Two of the predominant narcolepsy symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness and abnormal REM sleep. Some other abnormal symptoms include cataplexy, sleep paralysis and hallucinations. Cataplexy is the unique symptom of this condition. Most of these symptoms are related to your emotional state. These narcolepsy symptoms are experienced by people when they go through intense emotions like frustration, surprise, sadness and laughter. Many times, symptoms can differ from one individual to another except extreme daytime tiredness. Therefore, diagnosing the condition becomes difficult in many cases. Loss of muscle control or cataplexy is caused by strong emotions like laughing. Sleep paralysis is when the person experiences inability to move or talk at the end or beginning of sleep. Microsleep is another symptom where narcolepsy individuals sleep for brief episodes and function while sleeping but wake up with no memory of those activities.
Narcolepsy Treatment – Combinational Approach
Although there is no definite and specific cure for narcolepsy, certain combinations of narcolepsy treatment help to control symptoms associated with this condition. Such a combination includes counseling, behavioral changes and medication. Cataplexy and sleep attacks can create a lot of havoc on your emotional state of mind, prohibit the ability for you to lead a normal life and make you depressed. Reaching out to a psychologist, support group or counselor can help you cope with depression disorders. Behavioral or lifestyle changes are an important component of narcolepsy treatment. Scheduling sleep periods, avoiding the use of nicotine, alcohol or caffeine, over the counter drugs causing drowsiness, requesting co-workers to be alert, exercising, following a sensible diet and relaxation are some of the changes that can be brought about. Medications help to treat the two major symptoms of narcolepsy but discuss with your doctor for possible side effects.
Narcolepsy Medication – Side Effects
The commonly prescribed drugs for narcolepsy include stimulants, sodium oxybate and antidepressants. Most of the narcolepsy medication has side effects and hence it is important to consult your doctor before beginning the drug. Modafinil is a stimulant used in the day to encourage wakefulness and alertness. Side effects can include diarrhea, dry mouth, nausea and headache. Sodium oxybate is usually prescribed for those with severe cataplexy. It promotes sound sleep and brings down day time sleep. But side effects can include intense sleepwalking, bed-wetting and nausea. Strong dose can lead to coma, breathing difficulties and even death. Antidepressants are a great way to suppress REM sleep, cataplexy and sleep paralysis but can lead to insomnia, headache, restlessness, decreased sexual desire and digestive problems.