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Narcolepsy

 

Narcolepsy is a disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and periods of muscle weakness called cataplexy. Narcolepsy can cause accidents and injury from falling asleep while driving or doing other dangerous tasks.


Narcolepsy Symptoms

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness wherein a narcoleptic may find it hard to stay awake and suffer from sleep attacks (short, uncontrollable episodes of somnolence during the day).
  • Abnormal REM sleep or rapid eye movement, which is often disrupted, and may increase hypnagogic hallucinations (the semiconscious state immediately preceding sleep may include hallucinations that are of no pathological significance in and of themselves).
  • Cataplexy or muscle weakness usually during strong emotion - laughter, anger, grief.
  • Sleep paralysis with an inability to move when falling asleep or awakening.
  • Disturbed nighttime sleep, tossing and turning.
  • Nightmares.
  • Restless sleep.

Causes

  • Genetic abnormalities. Recent research suggests a faulty gene may be the cause.
  • Family history. Narcolepsy is often inherited from parents.
  • Brain chemical abnormalities, which also tend to be inherited traits.

Effects

  • Lack of muscle control
  • Serious problems in professional life
  • Serious problems in personal life
  • Low sex drive or impotence
  • Emotional difficulties.
  • Accidents and injury from falling asleep while driving or doing other dangerous tasks.

Diagnostic Methods: Sleep Studies including

  • Polysomnography - This test records electrical activity of the brain, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, airflow, and blood oxygen levels.
  • The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) - This test measure the speed it takes for a person to fall asleep.

Treatment

    • Schedule. Keeping to a regular schedule as much as possible.
    • Naps. Short daytime naps are sometimes refreshing.
    • Psychopharmacotherapy or medications.

Contact Rainier Professional Psychiatry