Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects your brain’s ability to control your sleep. It is neurological in nature. Under this condition, one suddenly feels drowsy again, even after just awake from a sleep. Some people experience drowsiness or fall asleep in the middle of activities like driving, eating, or talking. Let us understand what is narcolepsy and its symptoms.

What is narcolepsy?
It is a sleep disorder which leads to severe day time drowsiness and interferes with the quality of life of the individual suffering from it. The symptoms can be because of some muscle weakness which may be triggered by powerful emotions. It can make a person limp or unable to move, the condition is known as Cataplexy. Narcolepsy in combination with cataplexy is called Type 1 Narcolepsy, and the one without cataplexy is called Type 2 Narcolepsy. People with Narcolepsy disorder find it difficult to stay awake for a long time, which disrupts their daily activities.
If Narcolepsy is not timely diagnosed and left untreated, it can affect one’s psychological, social, and cognitive functioning at large. Although there is no cure to Narcolepsy, the symptoms can be effectively manager with some changes in lifestyle and medicine support. Mainly, it can be treated with some support from family, friends, and those they are socialized with.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a lifelong disorder once the symptoms start to show up. The signs and symptoms may worsen in the beginning, and then it continues forever. The symptoms may include:

•    Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): People with Narcolepsy experiences excessive daytime sleepiness. For example, you may suddenly nod off while working or talking with friends. This sleep will be for a few minutes up to a half-hour, probably. You might feel refreshed but soon you will get sleepy again.

•    Cataplexy: In this condition, an individual loses control over voluntary movements and experiences loss of movement in muscles. Some narcolepsy patients can experience this condition, which can cause changes in their movement and speech. This condition can last up to a few minutes. Cataplexy often happens due to the trigger of sudden potent emotions like anger, laughter, fear, stress, or excitement

•    Sleep Paralysis: It is a temporary paralysis that occurs during sleep, also called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. People with Narcolepsy sometimes have temporary experiences of sleep paralysis. They cannot move or speak while falling asleep or suddenly after waking up. Sleep paralysis will be there for a very brief period which may last for a few seconds or minutes but could be a frightening situation Not every Narcolepsy patient will experience sleep paralysis. People not affected with narcolepsy can also experience this.  

•    Fragmented Sleep and Insomnia: People with Narcolepsy experience difficulty while sleeping in the night and feel drowsy in the morning. Disrupted sleep could be because of insomnia, vivid dreaming, sleep apnea, periodic leg movements, and so on.

•    Hallucination: We see some people sleepwalking, which might be the effect of Hypnagogic Hallucinations. For example, you may feel in a strange room which may be vivid and frightening. Since you may not be fully asleep, you experience a dream that seems very real

It could be challenging to live with Narcolepsy. You can manage this condition by obtaining the correct diagnosis from a specialized doctor. By making certain lifestyle changes and adherence to prescribed medicines, one can enjoy higher life satisfaction than those left untreated.  

Note: The purpose of this article is to create general awareness among the readers. The information provided is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute to medical practitioner's recommendations. In case you find above stated symptoms in you or your known, kindly consult a physician or a specialist regarding diagnosis and treatment.

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What is Narcolepsy?