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What is narcolepsy?
You may think that it is normal if a person is drowsy during a day. In some cases, yes, there is no need to worry – we all like to sleep as more as possible, but, unfortunately, we do not always manage to do it. But at the same time, excessive daytime sleepiness can be one of the main symptoms of such a chronic neurological disorder as narcolepsy (it is also called hypnolepsy). It is caused by the deficiency of such a substance as orexin, also called ‘hypocretin’, which is responsible for wakefulness, arousal and appetite. Because of its shortage, a human brain cannot control the periods of wakefulness and sleep.
This disease can originate at an early age or a teenage and develop during the whole life.
A person who has a narcolepsy can fall asleep anywhere and anytime; it does not matter in what position he/she is. Even a substantial night sleep cannot protect him/her from feeling drowsy during a daytime. Having been sleeping for a few hours, such a person can easily fall asleep again; or after several minutes sleep, it can seem to such a person that he or she is refreshed and full of energy, but such feeling will probably last no more than a couple of hours.
It is the fact that narcoleptics feel the same during a day as non-narcoleptics after 24-48 hours sleep deprivation do. It is the tortures of the damned… Such people’s organism does not rest during nocturnal sleep because restoring processes are slowed down very much or absent at all. That is why they wake up tired and depressed and stay such all day long.
A healthy person goes to a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep phase in approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. During all this time, a person is to go through three proceeding phases. A narcoleptic comes to a REM phase in about 5 minutes. That is why the people with such a disease can have a dream as soon as they have fallen asleep.
There are some other symptoms of narcolepsy, except excessive daytime sleepiness.
Cataplexy. Being mentally alert, a person cannot move because of sudden consensual muscle weakness, which can be caused by experiencing strong emotions at that time: laughter, crying, hysterics, shock, fear, etc.
Paralysis. After having wakened up, a person realizes what is happening around, his/her brain is activated, but a person cannot move.
Loss of memory.
Disturbed nocturnal sleep.
What can cause narcolepsy?
Brain traumas and infections.
The worst thing is that there is still no medication from this horrible disease. There are some drugs which can make it a little more bearable, but they are powerless to eliminate the symptoms completely. That is why there is a list of occupations which are strictly prohibited for narcoleptics: driving a transport, working at a great height, holding a responsible position, working with children, etc.
However, the American scientists have made a step forward in the methods of narcolepsy treatment. They invented a nasal spray with orexin (this material deficiency in a human organism causes this disease). Let’s hope that more effective ways of treatment will be made up soon.