One of the most pervasive sleep disorders, narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterized by the incapacity to regulate the cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Narcolepsy causes sufferers to fall asleep uncontrollably during the day, negatively impacting daily life. The cause of narcolepsy is not yet known; it is speculated that the disorder is linked to a deficiency of certain genes which control the production of the neurological chemicals responsible for sleep regulation.
There are many inter-related symptoms that may indicate narcolepsy: all of which result in excessive daytime sleepiness, and can seriously impede your day-to-day life. If you experience one or more of the following symptoms, discuss the possibility of a narcolepsy diagnosis with a medical professional today:
Sleep paralysis can prevent you from moving, speaking, or interacting with the environment while falling asleep or waking up. However, you are fully mentally aware during this state. Fortunately, this state usually lasts from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, and it is not harmful to your overall health.
Many people who have narcolepsy experience vivid hallucinations while waking up or falling asleep. These hallucinations can become so intense that you begin to physically taste, hear, and smell the sensations that you are hallucinating.
Cataplexy sufferers will find that they lose muscle tone and experience muscle weakness while awake. This weakness can affect your entire body, or only certain parts. In some cases, cataplexy may cause your head to droop to the side or make it difficult to speak. Patients have also reported losing complete muscle control and falling while standing or walking.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
This is the primary symptom which afflicts all narcolepsy sufferers. The extreme tiredness can cause people to lose focus and fall asleep during typically inappropriate or dangerous times, such as driving or eating a meal. It is often the first symptom of narcolepsy to manifest.
Disturbed Nocturnal Sleep
While people who suffer from narcolepsy have a hard time staying awake during the day, they generally find that they have problems sleeping at night. Many people have reported that they wake up excessively during the night and have trouble entering the REM sleep cycle during nighttime hours.
In addition to muscle weakness, those who suffer from narcolepsy may also experience involuntary muscle spasms. This can cause jerking legs, buckled knees, and other forms of discomfort.
During microsleep episodes, narcoleptics have reported experiencing memory loss or fog. They may lose all memory in the short-term, from before a microsleep episode to when they regain full consciousness. At times, they may even talk or perform activities with no mental recollection of what occurred.
These are just some of the many warning signs of untreated narcolepsy. If you believe that you or a loved one may be a narcolepsy sufferer, schedule a sleep study with a medical professional today to begin treatment.