Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Sometimes, there are episodes of cataplexy or partial total control of the muscles due to strong emotions such as laughter. This condition affects men and women and symptoms begins to be experienced during childhood or adolescence and some people experience the symptoms for years before getting the proper treatment.
A person suffering from narcolepsy becomes sleepy during daytime and involuntarily falls asleep during performing normal activities. Narcolepsy is the normal boundary between awake and asleep, and sleeping happens while the person is awake.
Symptoms of narcolepsy
- Abrupt loss of muscular control while awake typically due to strong emotions such as laughter or crying called cataplexy or loss of muscle control.
- Vivid or occasionally terrifying visual or auditory sensations while sleeping or upon waking up or hallucinating.
- Difficulty moving or talking at the beginning or end of sleep or sleep paralysis.
- Microsleep which is a brief episode of sleep and continues to function such as talking and putting things away and then awakens and with no memories of the activities performed.
- Periods of wakefulness at night with hot flashes, high heart rate and sometimes severe alertness.
- A unique cycle of sleep where they enter the REM or dream phase of sleep after falling asleep such as vivid dreams and paralysis of muscles.
- Lacking hypocretin or orexin which is chemical in the brain that stimulates arousal and sleep.
- Take the prescribed stimulant medications to keep awake during day time.
- Take antidepressant medications to lessen the episodes of sleep paralysis, cataplexy and hallucinations.
- Perform regular moderate exercises to prevent stress that result to drowsiness especially in the afternoon to sleep better at night. Perform at least 30-45 minutes of brisk walking, swimming and jogging or 15 minutes high-intensity exercises such as basketball, soccer and strength training. Avoid performing exercises 3-4 hours before going to bed at night to prevent reduced amount of sleep.
- Take a walk regularly every morning. Sunlight keeps the alertness of the body. Vitamin D from sunlight increases the energy levels of the body. A fair-skinned person usually needs 45 minutes of sunlight to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D while a dark-skinned person needs at least 3 hours of sunlight regularly. Perform low to moderate at least 20-30 minutes of walking to lessen the risk of developing heart and respiratory diseases and control body weight that result to fatigue.
- Minimize being stressed to prevent anxiety, lack of sleep and drowsiness during daytime. Perform meditation exercises such as yoga and Tai chi and have some time for recreation and get plenty of rest.
- Avoid exposure to emotional or stressful environments to lessen the symptoms of the condition.
- Get adequate sleep at night to lessen daytime sleepiness.
- Avoid sleeping in supine or at the back position to prevent incidents of sleep paralysis.