Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. People with narcolepsy often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time, regardless of the circumstances. Narcolepsy can cause serious disruptions in your daily routine.
Sometimes, narcolepsy can be accompanied by a sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy), which can be triggered by strong emotion. Narcolepsy that occurs with cataplexy is called type 1 narcolepsy. Narcolepsy that occurs without cataplexy is known as type 2 narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a chronic condition for which there’s no cure. However, medications and lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. Support from others — family, friends, employers, teachers — can help you cope with narcolepsy.
The signs and symptoms of narcolepsy may worsen for the first few years and then continue for life. They include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness. People with narcolepsy fall asleep without warning, anywhere, anytime. For example, you may be working or talking with friends and suddenly you nod off, sleeping for a few minutes up to a half-hour. When you awaken, you feel refreshed, but eventually you get sleepy again.
You may also experience decreased alertness and focus throughout the day. Excessive daytime sleepiness usually is the first symptom to appear and is often the most troublesome, making it difficult for you to concentrate and fully function.
- Sudden loss of muscle tone.This condition, called cataplexy (KAT-uh-plek-see), can cause a number of physical changes, from slurred speech to complete weakness of most muscles, and may last up to a few minutes.
Cataplexy is uncontrollable and is triggered by intense emotions, usually positive ones such as laughter or excitement, but sometimes fear, surprise or anger. For example, when you laugh, your head may droop uncontrollably or your knees may suddenly buckle.
Some people with narcolepsy experience only one or two episodes of cataplexy a year, while others have numerous episodes daily. Not everyone with narcolepsy experiences cataplexy.
- Sleep paralysis.People with narcolepsy often experience a temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking. These episodes are usually brief — lasting a few seconds or minutes — but can be frightening. You may be aware of the condition and have no difficulty recalling it afterward, even if you had no control over what was happening to you.
This sleep paralysis mimics the type of temporary paralysis that normally occurs during a period of sleep called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This temporary immobility during REM sleep may prevent your body from acting out dream activity.
Not everyone with sleep paralysis has narcolepsy, however. Many people without narcolepsy experience some episodes of sleep paralysis.
- Changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is typically when most dreaming happens. REM sleep can occur at any time of the day in people with narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy often transition quickly to REM sleep, usually within 15 minutes of falling asleep.
- These hallucinations are called hypnagogic hallucinations if they happen as you fall asleep and hypnopompic hallucinations if they occur upon waking. An example is feeling as if there is a stranger in your bedroom. These hallucinations may be particularly vivid and frightening because you may not be fully asleep when you begin dreaming and you experience your dreams as reality.
People with narcolepsy may have other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea — a condition in which breathing starts and stops throughout the night — restless legs syndrome and even insomnia.
Some people with narcolepsy experience automatic behavior during brief episodes of narcolepsy. For example, you may fall asleep while performing a task you normally perform, such as writing, typing or driving, and you continue to perform that task while asleep. When you awaken, you can’t remember what you did, and you probably didn’t do it well.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you experience excessive daytime sleepiness that disrupts your personal or professional life.
The exact cause of narcolepsy is unknown. People with type 1 narcolepsy have low levels of the chemical hypocretin (hi-poe-KREE-tin). Hypocretin is an important neurochemical in your brain that helps regulate wakefulness and REM sleep.
Hypocretin levels are particularly low in those who experience cataplexy. Exactly what causes the loss of hypocretin-producing cells in the brain isn’t known, but experts suspect it’s due to an autoimmune reaction.
It’s also likely that genetics play a role in the development of narcolepsy. But the risk of a parent passing this disorder to a child is very low — only about 1 percent.
Research also indicates a possible association with exposure to the swine flu (H1N1 flu) virus and a certain form of H1N1 vaccine that’s currently administered in Europe, though it’s not yet clear why.
Normal sleep pattern vs. narcolepsy
The normal process of falling asleep begins with a phase called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. During this phase, your brain waves slow considerably. After an hour or so of NREM sleep, your brain activity changes, and REM sleep begins. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep.
In narcolepsy, however, you may suddenly enter into REM sleep without first experiencing NREM sleep, both at night and during the day. Some of the characteristics of narcolepsy — such as cataplexy, sleep paralysis and hallucinations — are similar to changes that occur in REM sleep, but occur during wakefulness or drowsiness.
There are only a few known risk factors for narcolepsy, including:
- Narcolepsy typically begins in people between 10 and 30 years old.
- Family history. Your risk of narcolepsy is 20 to 40 times higher if you have a family member who has narcolepsy.
- Public misunderstanding of the condition. Narcolepsy may cause serious problems for you professionally and personally. Others might see you as lazy or lethargic. Your performance may suffer at school or work.
- Interference with intimate relationships. Intense feelings, such as anger or joy, can trigger signs of narcolepsy such as cataplexy, causing affected people to withdraw from emotional interactions.
- Physical harm. Sleep attacks may result in physical harm to people with narcolepsy. You’re at increased risk of a car accident if you have an attack while driving. Your risk of cuts and burns is greater if you fall asleep while preparing food.
- People with narcolepsy are more likely to be overweight. The weight gain may be related to a low metabolism.
There is no cure for narcolepsy, but using specific Varma points and lifestyle modifications can help you manage the symptoms.
What Varmasakshi offers for Patients with Narcolepsy?
Ancient Vedic Medical System offers permanent cure for most medical conditions. Though science may challenge the Vedic System, the one common word anyone uses is “God is Great” when the cure happens. God and his miracles cannot be measured or substantiated by Science right?
At Varmasakshi, we follow our ancient Vedic system STRICTLY and all our treatment protocols are customized for each and every patient. When every finger is different, every person is different and every horoscope is different – how can the same treatment work for everyone? Your treatment and therapy is customized and structured based on many aspects and all the treatment protocols and even your diet is planned according to the Vedic System. All treatment aspects include:
Vedic Medical Astrology – In depth analysis of your horoscope from Medical Astrology point of view helps planning, structuring and deciding the treatment protocols. We use both Astrology and Astronomy to arrive at the most suitable time to initiate and continue therapy and we have seen in numerous instances that the cure happens much faster.
Vedic Medical Vaasthu Shastra – Not many people would have even heard about this. Vaasthu Shastra is based on the flow of energy and our experts will suggest the best possible remedies to ensure that your system receives the maximum amount of Positive energies, which are needed to cure you from your ailments. When combined with Medical Astrology, this plays a vital role in your therapy and helps your system cure well.
Varmakalai Therapy – There are 108 important Varma points and 7 Chakras in our human body. These points speak to our Varma Guru. Every point has significance and they breathe life. A complete assessment of these critical points and chakras will reveal the root cause of the issue and the therapy / treatment is planned and structured accordingly.
Vedic Diet – Vedic diet is a highly customized diet plan based on several years of deep research of our ancient Veda Shastras. Based on many aspects including Medical Astrology, planetary positions, planetary impacts, etc. our Guru will advise you on the best Vedic Diet that will help your medical condition vanish. “Food is Medicine” and in most situations, we have seen thousands of people coming out of their complicated medical conditions when they follow all these protocols committedly.
No science can ever explain why we were born or why we were born to specific parents or purpose of our birth or the potential sufferings that everyone goes through… There is a Super Power that is above us, who decides the plan and movement – some call it GOD, some call it FATE. If eclipses, planetary positions, good and bad times, disasters etc. were calculated without technology 50,000 years ago by our Maharishi’s, you can feel the depth of their knowledge and blessings. Our Veda Shastra’s are the oldest and following the Vedic System will help you in every walk of life! Ssree Gurubhyo Namaha!
If you have other health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, ask your doctor how the medications you take for your other conditions may interact with those taken for narcolepsy.
Certain over-the-counter drugs, such as allergy and cold medications, can cause drowsiness. If you have narcolepsy, your doctor will likely recommend that you avoid taking these medications.
Emerging treatments being investigated for narcolepsy include drugs acting on the histamine chemical system, hypocretin replacement, hypocretin gene therapy and immunotherapy, but further research is needed before any may be available in your doctor’s office.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle modifications are important in managing the symptoms of narcolepsy. You may benefit from these steps:
- Stick to a schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Take naps. Schedule short naps at regular intervals during the day. Naps of 20 minutes at strategic times during the day may be refreshing and reduce sleepiness for one to three hours. Some people may need longer naps.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol. Using these substances, especially at night, can worsen your signs and symptoms.
- Get regular exercise. Moderate, regular exercise at least four to five hours before bedtime may help you feel more awake during the day and sleep better at night.