Narcolepsy is a neurological disease that causes you to sleep during the days. You may also suddenly become weak in the muscles. Narcolepsy cannot be cured, but there are drugs that make it easier for you to stay awake during the day and sleep better at night.
Narcolepsy is an uncommon disease that usually occurs in adolescence, but it can also happen sooner or later in life.
One or more of the following symptoms is common if you have narcolepsy:
- Daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks, often in connection with quiet activities or monotonous work.
- Cataplexy, that is, you suddenly become weak in some muscles when you get certain emotions. Most often this happens in connection with laughter, but also in anger, surprise or fear. You may be weakened in the facial muscles, neck or legs. The weakness usually lasts no more than two minutes.
- Hallucinations that affect vision, hearing and emotions when you fall asleep or wake up. It means that you see or hear things in the room where you sleep, or know someone who touches you, without anyone really being there. Often hallucinations are scary.
- Sleep paralysis, which often occurs at the same time as the hallucinations and means that you feel paralyzed when you fall asleep and wake up. When that happens, you can’t touch your arms or legs and you can’t talk. The paralysis releases after a short while.
- Disturbed and worried sleep when you wake up many times and have nightmares.
- Weight gain and depression.
- Concentration and memory difficulties.
When and where should I seek care?
You can primarily contact a health care provider to see a doctor if you think you have narcolepsy. If needed, the physician can write a referral to a neurologist.
Fatigue and difficulty sleeping can have many different causes. Narcolepsy is uncommon and you may need to tell your doctor clearly that you think the trouble may be due to that disease.
You can tell your doctor about your sleep habits and about your complaints. You can then have a sleep test, a back fluid test or both and for the doctor to be able to diagnose.
Treatment of narcolepsy
Narcolepsy cannot be cured, but there are several drugs that can relieve the symptoms. There are treatments that increase wakefulness during the day, reduce cataplexy attacks and improve nighttime sleep. Several different drugs are sometimes required for the various disorders to be treated with the best effect.
What is the cause of narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy occurs when the brain is deficient in a substance that keeps you awake and that helps control your sleep. The deficiency can occur if the so-called immune system that protects against infections is affected. This leads to damage to the hypothalamus, which is an area of the brain.
Probably narcolepsy is a so-called autoimmune disease. This means that antibodies are formed in the blood against the cells in the body.
Narcolepsy is usually not hereditary, but almost everyone who gets the disease has a so-called HLA type in its immune system. In addition, some kind of external influence is required for you to get the disease.