Narcolepsy: Most Misdiagnosed Sleep Disorder

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Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects the nervous system of the body and it makes people sleep so much that their sleep interferes with their daily life.

It is viewed as an uncommon condition that is frequently ongoing and a great many people may not know that they are experiencing a rest issue as they might be making their rest look like an indication of apathy.

This is often a lifelong condition and the symptoms begin to manifest around the age of 10 and they will develop fully around the age of 25 years. But it is so difficult to recognize the symptoms of this condition that in the early years it can be passed off as laziness or tiredness and in the later years’ people simply assume that it is just their 

This nervous system condition causes extreme sleepiness and drowsiness, accompanied by a consistent and overpowering need to sleep no matter where you are. 

Some people have “sleep attacks”, during which they fall asleep almost instantly when these attacks happen and it can be while they are driving, or even eating.

It may come as a shock, but the poor quality of sleep at night or even insomnia are symptoms of narcolepsy.

Due to the presence of cataplexy, it has often been misdiagnosed as seizures, especially in young children.

This condition may not seem like a big deal, and it is often treated with humor and as a comedic device in popular media, but it is a serious condition that can prove to be fatal without proper precautions and treatments.

Now, being a sleep disorder, it may not harm you or cause your vital organs to stop working, but it can interfere with your day to day life and affect your productivity at work, it will show its effects on your academic life and it can even cause problems in your interpersonal relationships.

Symptoms:

  • Cataplexy
  • Excessive Day-Time Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Disrupted Sleep
  • Sleep Paralysis
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of Control over Sleeping

Types of Narcolepsy:

Type 1 Narcolepsy:

Type 1 Narcolepsy was previously termed as Narcolepsy with Cataplexy, and it involved a major defining symptom which is an abrupt short-term loss of muscle control. 

People who are diagnosed with Type 1 have sudden episodes where they lose muscle control and feel extremely drowsy or sleepy during the day. While more evidence is needed to establish the root cause of this sleep disorder, some studies indicate that a low amount of orexin or Hypocretin protein can be a cause of Type 1 Narcolepsy.

Type 2 Narcolepsy:

Type 2 Narcolepsy, is less common than Type 1 Narcolepsy, and it was previously known as Narcolepsy without cataplexy. As the name suggests, there is an absence of cataplexy in this type of narcolepsy, but the person suffering from Type 2 Narcolepsy will still have daytime sleepiness, having trouble getting proper sleep at night, and even have sleep attacks during the day. Interestingly, people with Type 2 Narcolepsy have nearly balanced or normal levels of orexin (Hypocretin) protein.

What are the Major Causes of Narcolepsy?

As Narcolepsy is a rare disorder, and it is often misdiagnosed or ignored, there have been very limited studies offering any substantial information regarding the cause of Narcolepsy.

A low amount of Hypocretin protein can be attributed to Type 1 Narcolepsy, which has the symptom of cataplexy, but further studies are required for better understanding the causes of this condition.

People between the ages of 10-25 are more likely to suffer from narcolepsy, but these are years when a person has daunting school work, the pressure to do well in college and excel at their first jobs, so the symptoms are often passed as laziness, or result of work-stress & burnout.

A person may be at risk of this sleep disorder if someone in their family is suffering from this sleep disorder, so it can even have genetic causes.

Available Treatments

Narcolepsy cannot be cured, but it can be managed with various types of treatments as well as lifestyle changes so that the person can enjoy a better quality of life.

The most common medications used for the treatment of Sleep disorder are stimulants like caffeine, but there is a risk of addiction associated with them.

Modafinil is an effective treatment for excessive daytime sleepiness in narcolepsy as it has wakefulness boosting properties but is not a stimulant so there is a lower risk of developing an addiction.

Armodafinil can also be used for excessive daytime sleepiness as it is an enantiopure compound of this very drug.

The brand name medication Provigil prescribed for the effective treatment of narcolepsy also has generic equivalents such as Modalert and Modvigil, similarly, the enantiopure compound can be found in Waklert.

Regular day-time naps, informing people at work and school about your condition, and having realistic expectations from yourself will make it easier for you to manage your daily life with narcolepsy.

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