Narcolepsy is a devastating disorder that causes uncontrollable sleepiness and muscle weakness. It is the abnormal, uncontrollable tendency to sleep during the day. Someone with narcolepsy experiences episodes of uncontrollable sleepiness that may occur several times during a day. It usually occurs after eating, but may occur at any time, each sleep episode lasts for about fifteen minutes. The person then awakens refreshed, only to become tired within the next hour or so. I can somewhat relate to how narcoleptics feel because I have a somewhat similar, only not as severe sleeping disorder, sleep paralysis.
Narcolepsy represents a neurological problem of sleep wake mechanisms in the brain. Some of it’s symptoms are; excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), desire to sleep longer than the usual seven to eight hours, attack of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep during the day that may cause attacks of muscle paralysis, memory loss, cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle tone), and dream-like hallucinations. As a result of the muscle paralysis, various muscles in the body are affected. Also, because of the dream-like hallucinations the brain and mental status of the person is also affected. Though the worst symptom of all would have to be cataplexy, for it can cause a person’s muscles to completely give out, putting their life in danger with out warning. Though not all of these symptoms occur in all cases, in fact all of them occur in only ten percent of overall narcolepsy cases. Cataplexy is the most common symptom associated with narcolepsy, afflicting over seventy percent of patients. Sleep paralysis comes next, occurring in 30 percent of cases, and hallucination comes last, which is present in only 25 percent of cases. Narcolepsy is usually diagnosed between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Unlike most diseases, narcolepsy affects men and women in equal numbers.
Although the disease is not terminal it can still affect a person’s life greatly. Narcolepsy causes people to have trouble staying awake while doing simple activities, which affects a person’s daily life greatly. It mostly interferes with a person’s ability to work. For example, if you’re a student with narcolepsy it can cause you to lose focus easily, resulting in bad grades. Not only that, but the dream-like hallucinations that comes along with narcolepsy have caused some people to be driven mad, for they cannot discern what is reality and what is not.
There are many ways of treating narcolepsy, both medical and non-medical. Some non-medical ways for narcoleptics to prevent sudden sleep attacks are; planning naps so that their body will feel rested when they need to stay awake. They can also take forced naps when they are drowsy to help them function normally. Consuming caffeine in moderation can also help a narcoleptic stay awake. Some medical treatments used for narcolepsy are stimulant pills such as dextroamphetamine, and methylphenidate. Though if a person has cataplexy, a physician will most likely prescribe and antidepressant to suppress the attacks of REM sleep. Some more complicated methods of treating narcolepsy includes cerebrospinal fluid removal, intrathecal injection of air, and X-ray irradiation. Various other effective treatments have been found and experimented on over time but even today the most common are antidepressants and dual stimulants are mostly used on people with narcolepsy. The most recent experiments on narcolepsy has led researchers to believe that a lack of the brain chemical Orexin may be the root cause of narcolepsy. Though even today there is no cure for narcolepsy so all you can do is carefully treat it. If it is left untreated however, worse symptoms may be experienced such as microsleep, total paralysis, or a total muscular collapse.
The first known cases of narcolepsy were reported in Germany in1877by a man named Westphal, and Fisher in the year 1878. The unusual connection between muscle weakness occurring along with extreme sleepiness were proved in their two reports. The muscle weakness is of course referring to cataplexy but it wasn’t given its name until the 1902 by a man named Loewenfeld. Narcolepsy was given its name by a man named Gelineau in 1880; he coined the term narcolepsy from the Greek words “narke” meaning “stupor” or “numbness,” and “lepsis,” meaning “to sleep”. Gelineau is also famous for recognizing the disorder as a specific clinical entity.
In conclusion, even though narcolepsy is not a fatal neurological disease it still has serious repercussions if allowed to progress to a more advanced stage. It is also probably one of the most dangerous disorders with out a cure, for it entirely affects the brain and a wide range of muscles. In my opinion narcolepsy is one of the most horrible neurological diseases out there, for it completely takes away a person’s ability to function properly and can result in total paralysis, leaving the person to live out their life as a vegetable.