Narcolepsy is a chronic, debilitating sleep disorder which is characterized by cataplexy (i.e. sudden transient muscular weakness), sleep paralysis, disturbed night sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy is caused by deficiencies in the hypothalamic neurotransmitter, hypocretin (also known as orexin), most likely through autoimmune-mediated cell death of the neurons producing this neurotransmitter. Hypocretin is a neuropeptide hormone that is responsible for controlling appetite and sleep patterns.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness – People with the sickness sleep off without any sign at anyplace and whenever
- Diminished alertness for the duration of the day
- Hard to focus and completely work
- Sudden loss of muscle tone called as cataplexy
- Sleep paralysis – Experience an inability to move or talk while falling asleep or after waking
- Hallucinations -Semi-alert, start envisioning and experience the fantasies as reality
- The exact cause for sickness is still unknown
- There might be many causes. Most people suffering with this condition have low levels of hypocretin (also known as orexin)
- Hypocretin levels are especially low in the individuals who encounter cataplexy
- At times, hereditary qualities may assume a part of cause for narcolepsy
Certain measures can be taken to evade undesirable and humiliating circumstances of narcoleptic or cataplexic episodes, or to reduce the chance of onset:
- Reduce the stress level
- Take short naps around the day
- Daily exercises
- Strict sleep time schedules
- Counseling to deal with embarrassment trauma
- Stigma or misconceptions about the condition
- Hindrance with intimate relationships
- Physical harm or vulnerability during episodes
- Gaining weight
Consume a healthy balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables. Intake of moderate quantities of poly-unsaturated fatty acids may be helpful (soy oil, castor bean oil or sunflower oil).
Foods to avoid:
- Cut out starches and sugars
- Maintain a strategic distance from nicotine and liquor as they can compound side effects
Patients are typically booked for a sleep study to establish breathing, heart rate, brain activity, and other bodily functions during the night to determine abnormal patterns of sleep. Laboratory tests to diagnose narcolepsy are dependent on analysis of orexin levels in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which requires a highly invasive and painful lumbar puncture.
Genetics can play an important role in certain patients with narcolepsy. One important predisposing genetic factor is the HLA-DQB1*06:02 allele in the DRB1*15:01-DQA1*01:02-DQB1*06:02 haplotype. Between 85 to 95 percent of narcoleptics with the symptom of sudden muscle weakness have this combination of alleles. HLA-DQB1*06:02 genotyping, can be particularly useful in helping to diagnose patients with the symptom of sudden muscle weakness with narcolepsy.
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