Also referred to as Excessive uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy causes overwhelming daytime sleepiness. It is a chronic sleep disorder affecting 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 people. The cause of narcolepsy is related to the loss of cells in the brain that secrete hypocretin. Hypocretin is a chemical in the brain important for regulating wakefulness.
Narcolepsy blurs the distinction between sleep and wakefulness. A person affected feels sleepy and fatigued during the day. Other symptoms can include dream-like hallucinations, sleep paralysis, disrupted nighttime sleep, and loss of muscle control, which can present itself in form of the affected person collapsing, or slurring words that don’t make sense. The disorder most often presents itself in childhood or adolescence.
The condition requires a medical diagnosis in order to be confirmed. No cure has been found for narcolepsy, but there are treatments that can help minimize the symptoms.
- Healthy sleep habits. Go to bed and wake up around the same time, every day. Keep your room dark and chilled, and avoid heavy meals or alcohol close to bedtime. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, get out of bed. Do something else for a while, but avoid the TV and social media.
- Power naps. A good recovery nap lasts 15-20 minutes and is not set too close to bedtime. In general, most people get an energy dip around 2-3 p.m. Try to fit a short nap in, around this time.
- Daily 30. Stay active and move for at least 30 minutes a day. Doesn’t matter if it’s a walk, jog, run, or cycle. As long as you make sure you move and get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day, it can have a positive effect.
- Ask for help. If you think you might be suffering from narcolepsy, please contact your physician for diagnosis and treatment. Counseling can help. There are support groups for the disorder all over the world, available as great forums providing a room for those affected to share experiences.