What Is Narcolepsy and How Does It Rob You of Your Sleep?

Narcolepsy is a disorder that affects your neurological system. People that suffer from this mental health issue often times experience uncontrollable urges to sleep and nap during the day. While driving a vehicle, in the middle of a conversation, or when performing just about any type of activity, a mental short in a narcoleptic's brain chemistry can cause that person to drop off to sleep instantly.

Obviously, this can be a dangerous disorder. Aside from dramatically impacting your daytime existence, it also robs you of your peaceful sleep at night. Since your body has an irregular sleep profile, narcoleptics have a real problem sleeping for extended periods of time in many cases. Between unpredictable bouts of daytime sleepiness and an inability to sleep at night, those suffering from narcolepsy frequently display other health problems which are caused by unhealthy sleeping patterns.

How a "Normal" Person Sleeps

If you enjoy healthy sleep, you will usually experience the early stages of normal sleeping patterns in 30 to 90 minutes after crawling under the covers. After about an hour and a half, a healthy sleeper drifts off into deep slumber, experiencing rapid eye movements (REM), a normal and healthy occurrence. This is followed by 6 to 8 hours of restful sleep.

How a Narcoleptic Person Sleeps

Succinctly put, not very well. When you suffer from narcolepsy, your neurological sleep imbalance sends you into deep REM sleep nearly instantly. This can also occur in the middle of the day. In many narcoleptics, sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night is normal. This is not what the average person requires for healthy sleep, and less rest at night can help trigger attacks of narcolepsy during the day.

What Are the Principal Causes of Narcolepsy?

Even with all of the scientific capabilities currently at our disposal, we do not know for sure what causes narcolepsy. It can appear at any time during your life, without warning, but will usually begin to show up in your late teens and early 20s.

A scary reality is that some less dramatic cases of narcolepsy go untreated, unreported an undiagnosed.

Although scientists do not agree on the cause of narcolepsy, research in the early part of the 21st century points to particular genes which may be the culprits. There are those sleep experts who also believe that a chemical called hypocretin, naturally produced in healthy quantities in the brain, is deficient in most narcoleptic individuals.

If you experience sleep paralysis, the feeling that you cannot speak or move immediately upon waking or attempting to go to sleep, this could be a sign that you suffer from narcolepsy. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and frightening hallucinations are also symptoms. There are no known cures from narcolepsy but treatment options abound, making total control over this baffling mental disorder a real possibility.

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