Table of contents:
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disease characterized by changes in the sleep cycle, in which the person has excessive and uncontrollable sleepiness during the day, being able to sleep soundly at any time, which may interfere with family life, work from social.
The causes of narcolepsy are still not fully understood, however it is believed that the action of two substances in the brain, hypocretin and orexin, may be related to the sleep-wake mechanism, which corresponds to the state of alert, keeping people awake. Thus, a change in the level of these substances could cause the person to have an excessive desire to sleep during the day.
Narcolepsy is a chronic disease, its treatment is focused on symptoms and, therefore, the doctor may recommend the use of stimulant drugs such as Modaphylline, Methylphenidate or amphetamines, in addition to naps and good hygiene. sleep.
Symptoms of narcolepsy
The main symptom of narcolepsy is too much sleep during the day. However, as this sign is not very specific, the diagnosis can be delayed, resulting in the appearance of other symptoms, such as:
- Periods of intense sleep during the day, in which the person can easily sleep anywhere, regardless of the activity they are performing;
- Muscle weakness, also called cataplexy, in which due to muscle weakness, a person may fall and be unable to speak or move despite being conscious. Cataplexy is a specific symptom of narcolepsy, however not everyone has it;
- Hallucinations, which can be auditory or visual;
- Body paralysis on waking, in which the person is unable to move for a few minutes. Most episodes of sleep paralysis in narcolepsy last between 1 and 10 minutes;
- Fragmented sleep during the night, which does not interfere with the person's total sleep time per day.
Therefore, in the presence of these signs and symptoms, it is important to consult a neurologist or a sleep specialist so that an evaluation can be carried out and the most appropriate treatment can be initiated.
How is the diagnosis
The diagnosis of narcolepsy is made by the neurologist and the sleep doctor according to the evaluation of the signs and symptoms presented by the person. In addition, tests such as polysomnography and the multiple latency test are performed, which study brain activity and sleep episodes.
It is also recommended to carry out a dosage of hypocretin so that any relationship with the symptoms can be verified and, thus, the diagnosis of narcolepsy can be confirmed.
The causes of narcolepsy are not completely defined, however it is believed that changes in the level of hypocretin and orexin substances may be related to narcolepsy.This is because these substances play an important role in the control of sleep and, therefore, a change in their level could make the person have more sleep during the periods that they should remain awake.
Other possible causes are injuries to the nervous system, more specifically in the areas that control the sleep-wake cycle, brain tumors and strokes.
How the treatment is done
The treatment of narcolepsy must be indicated by the neurologist and can be done with drugs, such as Provigil, Methylphenidate (Ritalin) or Dexedrine, which have the function of stimulating the patients' brain to stay awake.
Some antidepressant medications, such as Fluoxetine, Sertalin, or Protriptyline, can help reduce episodes of cataplexy or hallucination. Sodium oxybate may also be prescribed to some patients for use at night.
A natural treatment for narcolepsy is to change lifestyle habits and have a he althy diet, avoiding heavy meals, scheduling a nap after meals, avoiding drinking alcohol or other substances that increase sleep.