Narcolepsy is Chronic neurological disorder It is caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep and wake cycles. People with narcolepsy often fall asleep suddenly for a few seconds or minutes at any time of the day, whether they are talking or working.
According to epidemiological studies, this problem appears 20 to 60 cases per 100,000 populationWhich means that in Spain we are talking between 10,000 and 24,000 people who are living with the disease, although only 15% are diagnosed and treated well. Due to its low frequency, it is considered a rare disease.
Causes of narcolepsy
Although the exact causes of narcolepsy are unknown, it is believed that this chronic neurological disease may be related hypocretin deficiencyA neurotransmitter that plays a central role in alertness, motivation, and mood regulation.
It is believed that damage to this system is caused Autoimmune attack which arises from a combination of genetic predisposition and an attack on the immune system. Therefore, genetic factors play a crucial role in the development of narcolepsy.
5-15% of first-degree relatives of people with narcolepsy have other disorders with excessive sleepiness as a common denominator. Other causes that have been mentioned are hormonal changes or stress, immune system dysfunction or infection.
The most common symptoms of narcolepsy
As we have seen, the most obvious clinical manifestation and one of the first to appear is usually daytime sleepinesswhich becomes noticeable with constant fatigue and sudden attacks of sleep, which are added by others such as:
- Cataplexy: consists of a sudden and brief loss of muscle tone, usually lasting seconds to minutes, without loss of consciousness. It usually occurs after a strong emotion, mostly positive, such as laughter, and affects the muscles of the face, body, and hands.
- sleep paralysis: In some cases, upon awakening, a person cannot speak or move for a few seconds, but is aware of being awake. It is not a condition that threatens the victim and usually resolves within a few minutes, although it causes pain.
- Hypnagogic hallucinations: It can also happen that a person experiences dreams as real, which is known as hypnagogic hallucinations, when the hallucinations are before falling asleep, or hynapompic hallucinations, when they are experienced while awake.
- sleep fragmentation: Frequent vivid dreams and multiple awakenings, which reduce the quality of sleep at night.
The prevalence of obesity It is twice as common in people with narcolepsy as in the general population. Experts attribute this to the fact that the metabolic rate decreases due to the loss of hypocretin.
Not everyone suffers from the same type of narcolepsy.
According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, there are two types Narcolepsy:
- Type 1: It is associated with the symptom of cataplexy, a sudden loss of muscle tone. This type of narcolepsy can be diagnosed when a person has low levels of hypocretin.
- Type 2: People with this type of narcolepsy have symptoms similar to type 1, but without cataplexy or low hypocretin levels.
How to reach a diagnosis of narcolepsy
If you have any of the symptoms described, it is important to consult a neurologist so that he can confirm the diagnosis. Tests to detect narcolepsy usually include, according to the Spanish Association of Sleep Patients (ASENARCO), next:
- Nocturnal polysomnogram (PSG) – recording of brain activity, breathing, heart rate, muscle activity and blood oxygen levels during sleep – to detect excessive daytime sleepiness.
- A multiple sleep latency test to measure the onset of sleep and how quickly the rapid eye movement phase of sleep occurs.
- A genetic blood test to measure certain antigens that people prone to narcolepsy have.
Is there a treatment for narcolepsy?
There is no cure or prevention for narcolepsy. In most cases, treatment involves improving patient safety, reducing symptoms, and improving quality of life. These are behavioral approaches as non-medical forms of therapy:
- sleep Planned and short: For two to three short days to control drowsiness.
- Healthy sleep hygiene– Maintain a consistent sleep, nap and wake schedule, a sleep-free environment with minimal interruptions and limited use of electronic devices.
- Avoid alcohol: This drink or other sedative promotes sleepiness and may worsen daytime narcolepsy symptoms.
- Maintain a balanced diet: Since people with narcolepsy have an increased risk of obesity, a healthy diet is an important part of overall health.
- Doing physical activity: Being active, in addition to preventing obesity, also helps improve sleep at night.
- Seek support and help achieve good emotional health and combat the risks of social isolation or depression.
If all of these behavioral approaches aren’t enough, your doctor may consider medication to help control some of your symptoms.
Source: El Diario