- sleeping disorders
- Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where a person suddenly falls asleep at inappropriate times.It is a long-term neurological condition that disrupts normal sleeping patterns.
- If you have narcolepsy, you will experience REM sleep much earlier than normal after falling asleep. For example, you may enter REM sleep during naps. The effects of REM sleep, such as dreaming and paralysis, may also occur while you are conscious as well as while you are asleep.
- In 2010, scientists in Switzerland discovered that the reduction in orexin is caused by an autoimmune response to an antibody called trib 2.
- Another significant finding was the more trib 2 antibodies a person has, the more damage occurs to the areas of the brain that produce orexin, increasing the severity of the symptoms of narcolepsy.
- Excessive daytime sleepinessIn most cases excessive daytime sleepiness is the first symptom to occur. It is often the most debilitating symptom. If you have excessive daytime sleepiness, you will feel drowsy throughout the day and have difficulty staying awake.
- Sleep attacksSleep attacks, where you fall asleep suddenly and without warning, are also a common symptom of narcolepsy. They often occur after eating, although you may experience one at any time.The length of time a sleep attack lasts will vary from person to person. During an attack, you may fall asleep for about 15 minutes before waking up feeling alert and refreshed. You may have several sleep attacks a day.
- temporary muscle paralysis – known as cataplexy (see below); during an episode you will be unable to speak or move
- hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that are not real
- difficulty concentrating
- restless night-time sleep – for example, you may have hot flushes, wake up frequently and have vivid nightmares and/or physically act out your dreams
- automatic behaviour – continuing to carry out normal activities, such as talking or moving around, while you are still asleep
- Sleep habits: One of the best ways to manage excessive daytime sleepiness is to take frequent, brief naps evenly spaced through the day.
- avoiding stressful situations – stress can make the condition worse
- eating a healthy, balanced diet can help improve your levels of alertness
- not eating heavy meals during the day and before doing any potentially dangerous activities, such as operating machinery
- taking regular exercise but stop at least three hours before you go to bed
- If necessary, your GP may prescribe a type of medicine known as a stimulant. They work by stimulating your central nervous system.
- Sodium oxybate is a medicine used to treat narcolepsy with cataplexy (temporary muscle weakness) in adults.
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