What is it?
Narcolepsy is a chronic, autoimmune sleep disorder, which often begins in childhood or adolescence.
Its primary symptoms are:
Frequent daytime drowsiness, with uncontrollable urges to sleep, relieved by taking short naps;
Cataplexy, which is the sudden loss of strength in the entire body or in specific segments, provoked by strong emotions or scares. No fainting!
Hypnagogic hallucinations, which is seeing unreal and often scary images while falling asleep;
Sleep Paralysis, which is the inability to move when waking up
Insomnia, or nocturnal sleep difficulties
Which kinds are there?
Narcolepsy with cataplexy or without cataplexy.
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnostic is made by its symptoms and by a Polysomnography, followed by a Multiple Sleep Latency Test.
There are other biologic signs:
A diminution of orexin in the Cephalorachidian Fluid;
Increased prevalence of HLA subtypes (HLA DQ B6 01 02)
How to treat?
It depends on the symptoms. The purpose is to treat drowsiness, avoid cataplexy and the hypnagogic hallucinations as well as insomnia. Wakefulness stimulants and hypnotic drugs are implied.
Do not mistake with laziness!
Do not mistake with epilepsy!
Do not mistake with other sleep related disorders!
Do not mistake with chronic sleep deprivation (lack of sleep)!
It’s a rare but serious disease! It must be treated!
If you fall asleep all over the place, get yourself treated!
Professor Teresa Paiva
Lisbon, May 10th 2013