Narcolepsy is a neurological problem that causes a person to fall asleep abruptly during the daytime. Abrupt spells of sleep called “Sleep Attacks,” can occur while driving, eating, laughing, talking, or on the job and in severe cases can be very dangerous. Sufferers fall asleep at inappropriate times and places.
It affects 1 in 2,000 Americans in the US. About 50% of adults with narcolepsy report symptoms that start in their teenage years. For most patients it begins between the ages of 15 and 30 years. About 6% of sufferers are children less than 10 years old.
Causes of Narcolepsy:
The cause of narcolepsy is not known. According to experts, it is likely narcolepsy involves multiple factors that interact to cause neurological dysfunction and REM sleep disturbances. Narcolepsy has a genetic component that tends to run in families. Experts estimate that around 8 – 10% of people with narcolepsy have a close relative who has the disorder.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness–people with narcolepsy is prone to falling asleep while engaged in conversation, driving and eating dinner. Sleepiness exists despite a full night’s sleep.
- Hypnogogic hallucinations-during transition from wakefulness to sleep, the patient has bizarre, often frightening dream-like experiences that incorporate his or her real environment.
- Cataplexy– sudden loss of muscle tone, usually triggered by emotional stimuli such as laughter, surprise, or anger and can result in collapse. It may only affect certain muscle groups and result in slurred speech, buckling of the knees, or weakness in the arms. Consciousness can be maintained but the patient is usually unable to speak.
- Sleep paralysis– temporary inability to move during sleep-wake transitions – may last for a few seconds to several minutes.
- Disturbed nocturnal sleep– waking up repeatedly throughout the night. Leg jerks, nightmares, and restlessness.