A Closer Look at Narcolepsy

A Closer Look at Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a long-term neurological disorder that impacts the brain's sleep/wake cycles. People with narcolepsy typically experience excessive sleepiness during the day even though they may sleep well at night. 

There are different types of narcolepsy, and either type can have a major impact on how you feel and function throughout the day. It’s common for people with narcolepsy to have uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep (sleep attacks) while in the middle of everyday activities, such as eating.

If you have narcolepsy, or suspect you may have the condition, it's important to have a neurologist as part of your care team. Here at Premier Neurology Medical Group, Ravinder Singh, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating a full spectrum of neurological conditions. 

Narcolepsy is a manageable condition that requires the right combination of therapies to help you function well so you can enjoy a good quality of life.

Narcolepsy overview

Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden, uncontrollable sleep episodes. People with narcolepsy have a challenging time staying awake even if they’re performing an important task, such as driving.

Why do I have narcolepsy?

The exact cause of narcolepsy is unknown. Symptoms typically start during childhood or young adulthood. However, narcolepsy can develop at any time during an individual’s lifetime.

Certain genetic and environmental risk factors increase the likelihood of developing narcolepsy. Having a family member with narcolepsy puts you at a higher risk of developing it, too, although many people with narcolepsy have no family history of the disorder.

Special brain chemicals called hypocretins control the sleep/wake cycle. Some people with narcolepsy have low levels of hypocretins. It is also suspected that an autoimmune issue where the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue may contribute to the development of narcolepsy. Additionally, damage to the part of the brain involved in sleep can lead to narcolepsy.

Symptoms of narcolepsy

Narcolepsy involves the brain's ability to regulate sleep and wakefulness. The following are some of the most common symptoms.

Excessive daytime sleepiness

Individuals with narcolepsy feel persistently sleepy throughout the day regardless of how much sleep they get at night. The experience is more than just drowsiness. Individuals with narcolepsy are unable to control sleepiness and wakefulness. Symptoms may come on quickly and suddenly. Individuals may go from a normal level of alertness to asleep without warning.

Cataplexy

Some people with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, which is a complete loss of muscle control during sleep attacks. Triggers such as strong emotion or excitement are common. Sometimes cataplexy is the initial sign of narcolepsy, and in some cases cataplexy may develop years later or not at all.

Sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis is common in individuals with narcolepsy. It most often occurs at the onset of sleep and is characterized by an inability to move despite remaining completely aware. While it typically only lasts for a brief period of time, usually seconds, it's often a frightening experience.

Disrupted nighttime sleep

Individuals with narcolepsy often have issues remaining asleep at night. You may find yourself waking up multiple times during the night.

Hallucinations

It’s common for people with narcolepsy to experience hallucinations at the onset of sleep. Your awareness may change, and you may have a very vivid experience that feels real.

Managing narcolepsy

Dr. Singh has extensive experience helping patients manage narcolepsy. The initial approaches include making lifestyle changes, such as practicing good sleep hygiene. That means keeping a consistent sleep schedule and removing things that may distract you from sleep, such as using mobile devices right before bed.

Medication is used to promote wakefulness in individuals with narcolepsy. Finding the right combination of medication can make all the difference in your ability to lead a happy, productive life. Narcolepsy requires lifelong management and ongoing treatment. Some of the medications used to help manage narcolepsy include:

Modafinil

Modafinil is an FDA approved stimulant that increases the brain’s level of dopamine, the neurotransmitter involved in the reward pathway. This unique chemical helps individuals with narcolepsy feel more alert during the day.

Anti-cataplectic medication

Anti-cataplectic medication can boost alertness and reduce cataplexy. Several medications fall into this category. Dr. Singh can determine if this medication is right for you.

With lifestyle changes and the right combination of medications, individuals with narcolepsy can lead normal productive lives.

To learn more and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Singh at our Beverly Hills office, give us a call at 310-438-5268 or use our online form to book your visit today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Reasons You Shouldn't Ignore Migraines

Migraines can be outright debilitating, and you may not even realize your symptoms are migraine-related. If you’re having severe headaches that make it impossible to function, it’s wise to visit a neurologist for an evaluation.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture offers a multitude of benefits, from reducing inflammation and pain, to stimulating the release of mood-regulating chemicals. These effects can help you to get relief from chronic headache pain.

Chiropractic Care for Your Underlying Issues

Realigning your spine and relieving the stress on it may be key to easing headache pain. If you’re struggling with headaches, find out how chiropractic care can help you get the relief you need.

What Can Help With Dementia?

Patients with dementia have impairment in memory, language, thinking, and other abilities that interfere with daily life. An effective treatment plan can improve the quality of life for your loved one with dementia.

How Botox Can Relieve Your Headaches

Headache pain can strike anyone at any time, and when it does, the throbbing pain can stop you in your tracks, making it hard to go about your day. If you’ve tried other treatments, it may be time to consider Botox® for quelling your headache pain.

How Neuromuscular Therapy Can Relieve Headaches

Most headaches aren’t life threatening, but they can cause significant pain that disrupts your daily life. Our neuromuscular therapy targets muscles that may be contributing to your pain to provide you with effective relief.