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Narcolepsy: Causes and Symptoms

Narcolepsy: Causes and Symptoms

Narcolepsy refers to a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness during day time. It is a neurological disorder that affect the normal sleep-wake cycle. People with this condition tend to have sudden episodes of sleep that may affect during any time of the day. This disorder can affect people of different age groups, but is most commonly seen starting between the ages of 15-years-old and 25-years-old. The condition may remain undiagnosed in many people for years, and they may never have any specific treatment for the same. Yet, sudden sleepiness during the daytime may affect the normal routine for anybody.

Some of the studies show that specific genes are linked to the development of this condition. These genes are known to produce chemicals that regulate the cycle of sleepiness and wakefulness. Some studies have shown a relationship between brain abnormalities and narcolepsy. Issues in the brain result in the insufficient production of the protein hypocretin, which is often linked to this sleep disorder. It is also said that narcolepsy results from an autoimmune disorder.

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The symptoms of this disorder may become worse during the first few years of its beginning, and then often continue throughout life.

Some of the common symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Daytime sleepiness – Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is one of the first symptoms to appear in narcolepsy and results in the affected person to fall asleep anywhere, anytime. EDS may result in the person sleeping even while talking to others, and this is irrespective of whether the person had a relaxing sleep during the night. This considerably reduces the alertness of the person during the daytime. They may also have tiredness, depression, and a lack of memory and concentration.
  • Cataplexy – This refers to the sudden loss of muscle tone affecting the control over voluntary muscles. It may cause the person to develop a difficulty in speaking clearly, and can cause an individual to collapse, depending on its severity. These changes are often incited by sudden emotional changes, including anger, surprise, and even laughter.
  • Hallucinations – People with this disorder often complain of delusions that may be scary for some. These hallucinations often appear at the onset of sleep or during awakening time.
  • Sleep paralysis – Many people with narcolepsy often find it difficult to move or speak while falling asleep or on waking up. This may last only for a short period of time, and in most cases, people are able to recall it in detail later.

People with narcolepsy may show other symptoms as well, including: