What Causes Narcolepsy?

Although it is often portrayed in the media as being a humorous ailment, narcolepsy is actually a serious condition that should not go untreated. For its sufferers, it can cause a variety of issues and may be triggered by several factors. Most patients begin with a genetic predisposition which puts them at greater risk of developing narcolepsy. Because of the specific factors that can lead to an onset of narcolepsy, it is important to understand the unique causes, symptoms and possible treatments.

For a complete list of sleep disorder symptoms and to get in touch with the top sleep specialist in New York, contact Sleep MD today.

Narcolepsy Causes

Narcolepsy can often be a confusing disorder to understand, but there is, commonly, a root cause for the unique condition. To comprehend the root cause of narcolepsy, we must first acknowledge the two different types of narcolepsy. There is narcolepsy with cataplexy and narcolepsy without cataplexy.

Narcolepsy with cataplexy can be traced back to the lack of the chemical hypocretin in the brain. Hypocretin is vital for proper sleep because it regulates REM sleep as well as wakefulness. When hypocretin is low or absent, these two essential sleep functions may be impaired. Narcolepsy without cataplexy often includes most of the same symptoms as narcolepsy with cataplexy, but it’s root cause is unknown. Some sleep experts are researching whether injuries in the hypothalamus and brain stem, stroke, or tumors may be contributing factors.

It may be triggered by an event, such as an infection, wherein the body becomes confused and attacks hypocretin-producing cells instead of the illness. Often times, the onset of narcolepsy symptoms can be brought on by the H1N1 influenza virus AKA “the flu.” Since the immune system is concluded to be at fault for the loss of hypocretin, narcolepsy is considered an autoimmune disease.

Narcolepsy Symptoms

The loss and lack of hypocretin in the brain can make it very difficult for a person to maintain wakefulness. Due to this, the body often allows REM sleep to occur during moments when it normally would not. For someone suffering from narcolepsy, REM sleep can be entered directly from a waking state as opposed to the normal progression of being awake, falling into deep sleep, and eventually experiencing REM sleep. Because of these interruptions and other functions that narcolepsy can affect, a number of symptoms may be experienced.

One of the most notable symptoms is excessive daytime sleepiness and a lack of alertness. Those with narcolepsy may suddenly nod off in the middle of the day or even mid-conversation. They can fall asleep anywhere, at any time, without warning or signs. Cataplexy, AKA a sudden loss of muscle tone, is another common symptom. This can lead to a number of other physical modifications such as weakness in most muscles or slurred speech. It may last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes during each occurrence.

Cataplexy may be triggered by intense emotions such as excitement, fear, anger, laughter, or surprise. You may find that your knees suddenly buckle when you laugh. Some only experience cataplexy a few times a year while others experience it several times per day. Not everyone dealing with narcolepsy experiences cataplexy. Other symptoms include sleep paralysis, sleep apnea, or hallucinations that occur during the period when you fall asleep or just before waking. If you are currently dealing with sleep troubles and suspect you may be experiencing narcolepsy, schedule a consultation with Sleep MD NYC today to get the best treatment available.

Sleep Specialist in New York

The premier sleep specialist in New York, Dr. Mayank Shukla specializes in assisting patients in solving their sleep and respiratory concerns. A pulmonologist and sleep doctor for over 15 years, Dr Shukla works tirelessly alongside trusted colleagues utilizing a combined treatment approach for his patients.

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