Can Narcolepsy Be Treated?
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where a person experiences excessive sleepiness during the daytime hours. People with narcolepsy may just feel incredibly fatigued or fall asleep unexpectedly. This condition is greatly misunderstood and often mocked in popular culture. However, for someone suffering from narcolepsy it is a severe condition that affects their daily life.
Understanding narcolepsy helps doctors to figure out treatments and find ways to help people suffering with the condition to cope with it. Currently the main cause of narcolepsy appears to be a lack of the production of a protein, orexin, which controls appetite and sleep patterns. In people with the condition there seems to be a lower amount of orexin produced.
Diagnosing the condition is often difficult. There is a tendency to confuse the condition with depression, epilepsy and even as a side effect of medications. It usually starts in teenagers and can often be dismissed as laziness or due to poor sleeping habits.
There are usually two tests administered to diagnose narcolepsy. A polysomnogram records brain waves during normal nighttime sleep. The sleep onset latency test is done during the daytime and the person will sleep every 2 hours. While sleeping they are observed to watch the stages of sleep and how long it takes to reach each stage. Both tests will reveal if the person enters REM earlier than the normal person, which is the main point used to diagnose someone with narcolepsy.
Treatment of the disorder is often varied. Usually a doctor will start with changing sleep habits. This could involve the patient altering their environment to allow for an environment that is more conductive to sleep. This could involve using a foam mattress, like a memory foam mattress that gives the best support to the body and has been shown to allow for a more restful night's sleep. Another thing that may be done is altering sleeping patterns. For example, taking short naps throughout the day.
In severe cases where modification of sleeping habits and environment do not work, a person may have to start taking medication. The common medications used are those that stimulate the central nervous system. There are other medications that are used. The main goal is to treat the neurological causes of the condition.
There is no cure for narcolepsy, but treatments have proven to be successful. For many people, just getting a new, better mattress can be the only thing they need to help them cope with the condition and avoid the side effects of daytime fatigue. Most people do not have the need for medications. Treatment is all about finding what works for the individual patient.
Narcolepsy is not something that is easy to live with. Until a person is diagnosed, it can be difficult for a person to make it through the day. After diagnosis, the goal becomes finding a way to treat the condition so that the person can live a healthy and happy life without having to worry about narcolepsy interrupting it. It will never go away, but many people live with this condition and carry on a normal, functional life.
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