Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder. Individuals with narcolepsy are unable to properly regulate their circadian rhythm. This means that they may feel extremely tired during the middle of the day. In moderate to extreme cases, they may even fall asleep with little to no warning. As a result, those with moderate to severe narcolepsy have difficulty doing a number of “normal” activities because they are deemed unsafe due to the unpredictability of their condition. But are there dangers of narcolepsy?
Surprisingly, about one of every two thousand people are narcoleptic to some degree. The current understanding is that about 50% of people with narcolepsy go undiagnosed throughout their lifetime. The discrepancy between those diagnosed and those who are not is worrisome, as it could lead to potentially dangerous scenarios for those who are undiagnosed. To better understand the nature and risks of narcolepsy, let’s take a closer look.
Challenging the Myths & Dangers of Narcolepsy
Generally speaking, patients with narcolepsy do not necessarily get more sleep than normal people. Rather, their normal patterns of sleep become heavily fragmented. They may even experience hallucinations or sleep paralysis as a part of their condition. Overall, about half of people with narcolepsy actually struggle to sleep soundly through the nighttime sleep cycle. It is an integral part of their body’s confusion in regard to their circadian rhythm.
Although all narcolepsy patients struggle with maintaining a normal sleeping/waking schedule, there are two major forms of the condition.
Narcolepsy Type 1:
This form of narcolepsy remains characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. But two other factors may also come into play. People with narcolepsy type 1 have cataplexy or low CSF hypocretin-1 levels.
Cataplexy is essentially sudden muscle weakness. At its most moderate, it can result in slurred speech and slowed general movement. However, it can escalate to total paralysis. For people with narcolepsy type 1, these episodes are usually triggered by a sudden shift in the person’s emotional state.
CSF hypocretin-1 is the hormone that regulates your state of wakefulness and appetite. It isn’t always present in narcolepsy type 1 patients, but it is a strong indicator of the condition.
Narcolepsy Type 2:
This type of narcolepsy most typically ends up portrayed. These patients do not experience any form of cataplexy, and their CSF hypocretin-1 levels remain unaffected. Instead, these people experience extreme daytime sleepiness with little warning, and it comes in much shorter cycles.
Dealing with Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is dangerous because the sudden onset of sleep is relatively unpredictable, and it could leave the affected person in a vulnerable position. Therefore, if you suspect that you or a loved one may have narcolepsy, you should definitely speak to your sleep specialist in NYC. The truth is that they could fall asleep behind the wheel, at work, in the shower, etc. There are so many situations where you cannot afford to fall asleep with little to no warning.
Luckily, narcolepsy treatment can help you to manage your symptoms. Once your local sleep specialist has diagnosed the specific type of narcolepsy, they will use a combination of medication and lifestyle changes to give you the most normal life possible. In most cases, medication is only used to shift the lack of CSF hypocretin-1. Otherwise, narcolepsy can be controlled relatively well by maintaining consistent sleep hygiene.
Importance of Sleep Schedule and Dangers of Narcolepsy
Sleep hygiene typically requires avoidance of alcohol and nicotine, but it also promotes a regular sleep schedule and an active lifestyle. This combination ensures that you stay tired after a long day and can sleep soundly throughout the night. For many people with narcolepsy type 2 that’s enough, but narcolepsy type 1 patients tend to benefit from sleep hygiene improvements with the help of medication.