Narcolepsy is a chronic, neurological sleep disorder. It has two known types- Type 1 and type 2. It can affect both adults and children, but there are some significant differences in narcoleptic children in comparison with adults that often get misdiagnosed as a behavioral problem, such as irritability and restlessness. The exact underlying cause of narcolepsy is still unknown, but it is believed to be linked to several possible factors, such as a brain tumor, injury, genetics or environmental factors. The most likely culprit though is a deficiency in a chemical called hypocretin, also known as orexin.
Type 1 is a lot more common and comes with an added dangerous symptom- the loss of muscle control during the sleeping spells. These spells can occur at any time of the day, such as when you’re eating, driving, walking or talking. Therefore, people with either type of narcolepsy are not permitted to undertake certain things, such as driving on the roads or operating any dangerous machinery. Type 2 is very similar to type 1 regarding the spells of daytime sleepiness, with the exception that it does not have the loss of muscle control caused by low levels of hypocretin.
In a normally functioning brain that does not have narcolepsy, the sleep cycle takes about an hour-90 minutes to enter REM sleep. Narcoleptics, however, enter REM sleep only minutes after falling asleep, which is not normal or healthy at all. Some narcoleptics may feel refreshed or rested after waking, but the sleepiness will soon surface and strike them at any time of day without warning.
In addition to the chronic, excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy (loss of muscle control), two of the other most common symptoms of narcolepsy include: Temporary sleep paralysis and hallucinations, and automatic, unconscious behavior during the sleep spell.
Are there any options to manage and treat narcolepsy so you can fully function and live an active and productive life? Unfortunately, there is no cure. But luckily, it is very possible to keep under control. It’s time to throw that pillow aside and beat that sleepiness in safe and feasible ways. Listed below are some of the best ways to relieve your EDS and other symptoms of narcolepsy.
One of the best courses of action you can take to fight off narcoleptic EDS is to fit in several naps during your daily routine and stick to them as much as possible. If this is not usually permitted in your particular job or work position, then you will need to explain your narcoleptic sleep disorder to your boss and why you need those naps. If he/she is unwilling to accommodate your needs, then you may have to find another job that is more understanding, flexible and suitable for those with this condition.
Another highly recommended step is to improve your overall quality of sleep and sleeping area. You can do this in several ways- Avoid using any electronic devices about an hour or so before you go to sleep, stick to a consistent sleeping and waking schedule, keep your bedding clean, unclutter your bed, and put your phone on silent before drifting off.
Narcoleptics are at a higher risk of becoming obese, getting strokes, heart attacks and heart failures. Therefore, gradually increasing your daily exercise and keeping a heart- healthy diet would be very wise decisions.
Stick to lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, probiotics and prebiotics. Avoid foods that contain tryptophan, as this ingredient causes sleepiness, and foods high in carbs and sugars.
During the daylight hours, stay far away from anti-histamines, sleeping pills and any other medication that could make you drowsy.
If you need to travel a long distance, it’s best and safest to avoid driving there, because you might fall asleep at the wheel and endanger yourself and others on the road. Call a taxi, a friend to drive you, or some form of public transportation instead.
Please note: It’s important to remember that everyone’s genetics and overall health conditions are different. You can easily possess separate health conditions besides or instead of narcolepsy. You should consult with your physician to ascertain what is causing your EDS and what to do about it.