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Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that prevents the brain from controlling the sleep-wake cycles correctly. Narcolepsy affects normal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and people with narcolepsy often feel drowsy in the day and sleep poorly at night.
The condition normally first develops in younger people, typically between ages seven and 25. While narcolepsy is not typically life threatening, it can be fatal if an attack occurs in certain situations, like while driving.
If you’ve been diagnosed with narcolepsy or have symptoms of narcolepsy, it’s important that you get the proper treatment in order to stay safe. Our board-certified sleep specialists at Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California can help you find the right treatment. Find a Doctor today to learn more about our sleep centers and expertise in sleep disorders like narcolepsy throughout the Sacramento region.
While the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy do not include sleeping more hours than normal, they often do disrupt a person’s daily activities and quality of life.
Extreme daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks, in which a person suddenly falls asleep for several seconds or minutes, can strike at any moment, even in the middle of a conversation. These attacks can become deadly if they happen while the person is driving, or they can affect job performance if they happen frequently at work. Temporary paralysis, hallucinations, and cataplexy, in which the person goes completely limp, are also symptoms of narcolepsy, though most people usually have only a few of these symptoms rather than all of them at the same time.
While doctors are not entirely sure what causes this disorder, they think a shortage of the brain chemical hypocretin may play a role, especially when the person also experiences cataplexy. Hypocretin helps people stay awake. Other possible causes of narcolepsy include:
There is no cure for narcolepsy, but people can manage their symptoms with medication and other types of treatment. We can help you find the right treatment option at our state-of-the-art sleep centers.
Medications that act as stimulants can ward off sleep attacks and promote daytime wakefulness. Some antidepressants may relieve symptoms of cataplexy and hallucinations. A doctor can also prescribe other drugs to induce sleep at night.
You may be able to relieve some symptoms beginning with good sleep habits. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and preparing your mind for sleep with a routine of relaxing activities before bed. Your doctor may recommend taking several short naps during the day, as well as avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals close to bedtime. Rely on our trusted sleep specialist to help you learn what techniques or medications work best for your lifestyle and unique needs.