Hard to Stay Awake? - You May Have Narcolepsy!
In the HUB "Sleep Disorders – A Serious Issue" I discussed sleep disorders and the importance of visiting a doctor for an actual diagnosis. Well this HUB, my friends, is about the symptoms that one experiences when dealing with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy afflicts 1 in 2,000 Americans and in all honesty, is no laughing matter. Many people that suffer with narcolepsy live a long time without being properly diagnosed as many "family" physicians are not sufficiently trained to deal with such a condition. In fact, for years, narcolepsy was treated as a "mental health issue" and not a medical disorder (which it actually is). Even though narcolepsy still throws many physicians for a loop, more and more people are getting treated for this interesting condition and are actually receiving the proper treatment and care.
Narcolepsy - NOT a Psychological Disorder!
When people hear the word narcolepsy, they automatically think of a person instantaneously falling asleep….usually during the most inopportune times. It is important to note that narcolepsy isn't related to poor sleep habits or a psychological disorder. Narcolepsy, in fact, occurs when the brain cannot properly regulate normal "sleep/wake" cycles. People that have narcolepsy experience "drowsy periods" throughout the day and often fall asleep at odd times (for example, at a party, work, or even the gym). These "drowsy periods" are also called "sleep attacks." A person with a severe case of narcolepsy can suffer from "sleep attacks" several times per day and often find it difficult to get through daily activities. Though there is no cure for narcolepsy, there are ways to treat it…thank goodness!
Not so long ago, people with narcolepsy were misdiagnosed and considered either lazy or possessed! Some scholars believe that individuals mentioned in the bible as being "filled with demons" actually suffered from either narcolepsy or epilepsy. Thank goodness we (as a people) have advanced! Though narcolepsy still remains a mystery in many ways, what is known for certain is that this condition disrupts the mechanism in the brain that coordinates the various "sleep states" that a person experiences.
Extreme Daytime Sleepiness!
Though this condition is not considered to be hereditary, it is interesting to note that if an individual has narcolepsy, then most likely…someone else in their family (either past or present) also suffers (or suffered) from this condition. Researchers believe that head trauma and hormonal changes may also play a role.
When it comes to narcolepsy, the most common symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness. In fact, the urge to sleep is so strong, it wreaks havoc on a person's life and can cause great distress. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) can create the following complications:
- Inability to stay alert when in a rested state (such as simply sitting in a chair)
- Sleep attacks (when a person suddenly falls asleep at an inopportune time)
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty remembering things
In order to be treated for narcolepsy it is VERY important that a person be diagnosed correctly! Doctor's often confuse narcolepsy with other conditions such as depression, sleep apnea and insomnia. If you believe that you have narcolepsy, mention it to your doctor. Even if you don't have this condition it can't hurt to "throw it out there." As always, make a list of your symptoms and write down any questions that you may have BEFORE your appointment. As I mentioned before, if you have narcolepsy it is extremely important that you be diagnosed QUICKLY so that the proper treatment program can be assigned. Good luck and here's to staying awake!
For more information about sleep disorders signs and symptoms...please visit the Sleep Disorders Signs and Symptoms Blog! Good Luck!