Most of you might be wondering, ‘Narcolepsy? Never heard of it.’ Or… ‘What is it? Sounds interesting.’ Well, let me assure you that it is indeed interesting.
Since not many people seem to know about it, I decided that I would write several articles; each one unveiling the mystery behind narcolepsy, allowing us to further educate ourselves.
In this article, I will explain what narcolepsy is and its symptoms.
So, what is narcolepsy?
It is a rare sleeping disorder, also known as ‘Orphan disease’ because it only affects around 0.05% of the population. In other words, less than 5 per 10,000 people have it in a community. In the UK this is around 31,000 people and globally, it would be nearly 3,585,000 people. Mainly, symptoms first appear when people are between the ages of 7 and 25. However, narcolepsy may appear at a younger age or in older adults which is quite rare.
 Gregory Kornegay, Attorney At Law, (n.d.). Sleep disorders, Narcolepsy. [image] Available at: http://myattorneygreg.com/sleep-disorders/ [Accessed 16 Mar. 2016].
What are the symptoms? 
Disturbed night-time sleep:
One of the most common and often the most under diagnosed symptom is disturbed night-time sleep. This is where the sleep pattern becomes more fragmented which causes one to suffer from numerous awakenings during the night. This result leads to one feeling tired in the morning.
Excessive sleepiness throughout the day:
Another symptom is excessive sleepiness throughout the day, meaning one can be falling asleep at improper times throughout the day. This leads to not only fatigue but also poor concentration and attention, as well as negative effects to one’s short term memory.
 Robinson, L. and Segal, Ph.D., J. Helpguide.org, (n.d.). Narcolepsy, Symptoms and Treatments of Narcolepsy. [image] [Last updated: February 2012]. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/narcolepsy.htm [Accessed 16 Mar. 2016].
The third most particular symptom is cataplexy; however it doesn’t appear in all patients so only about one third of the patients will suffer from it. Cataplexy is involuntary muscle weakness in response to emotions. Surprisingly, positive emotions are the most potent triggers of it. Nevertheless emotions such as anger, fear, embarrassment, surprise or even a large meal may also trigger cataplexy in some.
The severity can vary for each individual, for example, one can experience anything from mild facial weakness to completely collapsing while still conscious but normally the head suddenly falls forward, knees buckle, the jaw can become slack and speech can either be loud or broken. The duration of these attacks differs for each individual so they can possibly last from seconds up to two minutes. The attacks can occur repeatedly for between twenty to sixty minutes.
This is the incapability to move while one is conscious. The possibility of it happening is at the beginning stage of falling asleep or when waking from sleep.
 WRIGHT, H. (December 2nd 2014). Imagine waking up paralyzed and trapped in a nightmare: Sleep Paralysis. [image] Available at: http://www.theplaidzebra.com/sleep-paralysis-imagine-awake-paralyzed-trapped-nightmare/ [Accessed 16 Mar. 2016].
Hypnagogic / hypnopompic hallucinations:
The meaning of hypnagogic is the period of drowsiness immediately preceding sleep. The meaning of hypnopompic is the semi consciousness preceding waking. These are often very scary, dream-like experiences during the transition between wakefulness and sleep.
This is when one is just carrying on with an activity, however they have no recollection of it, meaning they are almost like a robot or in a hypnotic trance, doing something without realising what they are doing exactly. Since they are unaware of their actions this means that they cannot control its performance. For example, if something goes wrong then they will most likely not be able to improve it as they won’t be used to doing that sort of thing. The only thing they will be able to do is what they are normally used to; for example, if they are writing down something and you take away the paper they are writing on, then they will probably not realise nor care that you have taken away their paper and just carry on writing where they are writing which might be on the table. Another example is, if one is writing before falling asleep, instead of writing proper words there may be only scribbles.
Furthermore, there have been many reports of problems with food. This could be due to over or under eating or being intolerant to many standard food groups. Another symptom in children is increased hyper activity.
Many people affected by narcolepsy suddenly gain weight. This can be controlled by doing exercise, which is also beneficial for getting a good night’s sleep.
What is Secondary narcolepsy?
This occurs because of an additional and underlying neurological condition i.e. Parkinson’s disease, Myotonic Dystrophy or Traumatic Brain Injury. The symptoms include:
- Daytime excessive sleepiness
- Disturbed night-time sleep
- Occasional cataplexy attacks.
- Usually possible to identify damage to the hypocretin system in the hypothalamus (controls sleep-wake cycle).
To be continued…
 What is narcolepsy?, Narcolepsy UK [Internet) Available at: http://www.narcolepsy.org.uk/about-narcolepsy/what-is-narcolepsy. [Accessed: March 16th 2016]
 Gregory Kornegay, Attorney At Law, (n.d.). Sleep disorders, Narcolepsy. [image] Available at: http://myattorneygreg.com/sleep-disorders/ [Accessed: March 16th 2016].
 Robinson, L. and Segal, Ph.D., J. Helpguide.org, (n.d.). Narcolepsy, Symptoms and Treatments of Narcolepsy. [image] [Last updated: February 2012]. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/narcolepsy.htm [Accessed March 16th 2016].
 WRIGHT, H. (December 2nd 2014). Imagine waking up paralyzed and trapped in a nightmare: Sleep Paralysis. [image] Available at: http://www.theplaidzebra.com/sleep-paralysis-imagine-awake-paralyzed-trapped-nightmare/ [Accessed March 16th 2016].