Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder affecting the brain’s ability to direct sleep/wake cycles and if left undiagnosed, may interfere with psychological, social and cognitive function inhibiting academics, social interaction and work. People with narcolepsy may experience broken sleep patterns throughout the night or an inability to sleep. They may awaken in the morning refreshed only to experience extreme sleepiness during the day.
Nearly all individuals with narcolepsy with cataplexy have extremely low levels of naturally occurring chemical hypocretin. Hypocretin regulates your REM sleep and wakefulness. While the causes of narcolepsy are not totally understood, much of the research shows that it may result from a combination of factors such as autoimmune disorders, family history and brain injuries
Narcolepsy is diagnosed by clinical examination as well as a detailed medical history. A physical exam is important to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms but there are two specialized tests, Polysomnogram and Multiple Sleep Latency Test, performed to diagnose Narcolepsy. Although there is no cure for narcolepsy, some of the symptoms can be treated with medications such as Modafinil, antidepressants, sodium oxybate, and life style changes. Taking short naps, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine or alcohol prior to bedtime, avoiding smoking and exercising daily are just some of the things you can do to reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy.