Causes of Narcolepsy

Causes of Narcolepsy

When a person is suffering from narcolepsy they are living with a chronic sleep disorder. Since the brain is unable to regulate sleeping patterns, people with this disorder find that their urges to sleep can strike at any time of the day. Imagine living with a condition where you might spontaneously fall asleep at any time of the day, and only stay asleep for a brief couple of minutes or only a few seconds. For some people with narcolepsy, this brief sleep period might last for an hour.

Eating disorders commonly accompany narcolepsy, with people experiencing intense cravings for certain foods.

Research has shown that men are more often affected by narcolepsy than women are. While there are some known genetic factors for narcolepsy, the primary cause of narcolepsy remains unknown. There is some evidence that the brain chemical, hypocretin, may be a major factor in causing narcolepsy. Hypocretin is the primary chemical that helps to regulate sleeping patterns, allowing people to stay awake when they need to, and enter REM stage sleep as needed also. But hypocretin levels are very low in people who are suffering from narcolepsy. It is unknown why these levels are lower in some people than others.

Narcolepsy has several symptoms including cataplexy, where any sudden and strong emotion, be it anger, or laughter, or a multitude of others, can cause the sudden loss of involuntary muscle tone. People with narcolepsy also find that they are overwhelmed by their need to sleep during the day and are frustrated by their inability to control it. To make matters worse, they may also suffer from hallucinations when they begin to fall asleep, or when they first wake up. There have also been people who have engaged in automatic behaviors when they were sleeping, and upon waking have absolutely no memory of what they did.

Behavioral modification is, at this time, the primary treatment available for narcolepsy. The methods taught include taking short and regular naps, focusing heavily on a regular and consistent sleep schedule and being sure that they are not consuming alcohol or caffeine too close to their regular bedtime.

It is also suggested that they stay as active where possible during waking hours.

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