Unexpectedly dozing off at a boring meeting at work, or during a movie after a long weekend of merriment is completely normal, and almost always a side effect of regular exhaustion and sleep deprivation. While many people might associate narcolepsy with simple exhaustion and random bouts of sleepiness throughout the day, it is actually a rare neurological sleep disorder that affects an average of 3 million people around the world, and roughly 200,000 in the United States.
How Does it Work?
A healthy sleep pattern starts with a phase known as NREM (non-rapid eye movement), where the brain waves slow down and gradually shift into the REM (rapid eye movement) phase, where most of the fun and creepy dreaming we do takes place during the night, or a long nap. Narcolepsy causes the brain to skip the NREM phase and jump straight into REM sleep, either at night when the person is trying to fall asleep, or unexpectedly at any point during waking hours.
Other side effects of the condition include a condition called cataplexy, which results in the loss of muscle control, as well as sleep paralysis and hallucinations. Because the onset of sleepiness is uncontrollable and can occur at any point in the day with little to no warning, it can significantly disrupt a person's routines and quality of life.
What Causes Narcolepsy?
An exact cause for the onset of narcolepsy is unknown, but deficiencies and lower levels of a neurochemical calledHypocretin that regulates REM sleep may play a role, as well as exposure to the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, or genetics.
Narcolepsy Diagnosis and Treatment in Astoria
Many people suffering from narcolepsy can be unaware of their condition for some time, delaying diagnosis and treatment. If you are suffering from symptoms or suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, contact the Pacific Sleep Program in Astoria, OR at (503) 325-3126 to schedule an appointment today.