Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Suddenly Sleepy Saturday: National Narcolepsy Awareness Day

Today is Suddenly Sleepy Saturday, also known as National Narcolepsy Awareness Day, a part of National Sleep Awareness Week. Do you know someone who suffers from Narcolepsy? I bet you do. Perhaps even YOU do but just don't realize it yet.
It is estimated that Narcolepsy affects as many as 200,000 Americans (or 1 out of every 2,000), although fewer than 50,000 are diagnosed. There is strong evidence that it may run in families; about 8 to 12 percent of people with Narcolepsy have a close relative with the disease. Although it is as widespread as Parkinson's disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and more common than Cystic Fibrosis, (though not as well known), it is often mistaken for depression, epilepsy, or the side effects of medications.

This disease is a sleep disorder, involving irregular patterns in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and significant disruptions of the normal sleep/wake cycle. While the cause of Narcolepsy is not completely understood, current research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors that influence the immune system.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy may include:
1. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), an overwhelming sense of tiredness and fatigue throughout the day.
2. Poor quality of sleep because the sleep wake patterns are disrupted.
3. Micro-naps (falling asleep for a few seconds) and sleep attacks (an overwhelming urge to sleep).
4. Abnormal REM sleep, detectable only by sleep lab tests, such as a Polysomnogram and/or a Multiple Sleep Latency Test.
5. REM intrusion into daytime wakefulness.
6. Cataplexy, events during which a person has no reflex or voluntary muscle control. For example knees buckle and even give way when experiencing a strong emotion – laughter, joy, surprise, anger – or head drops or jaw goes slack from the same kind of stimuli. This is what the media portrays as Narcolepsy, though they largely get this wrong too. For instance, the character with Narcolepsy falls asleep in his bowl of soup at the dinner table. As stated, Cataplexy is an involuntary loss of reflex or muscle control. Sufferers are still fully conscious.
7. Hypnogogic and/or Hypnopompic hallucinations, events of vivid audio and visual events that a person with Narcolepsy experiences while falling asleep, or while awakening.
8. Sleep paralysis, a limpness in the body associated with REM sleep resulting in temporary paralysis when the individual is falling asleep, or awakening. Also sometimes referred to as "Old Hag Syndrome" due to the frightening sounds or visuals (#7) and the feeling as if someone were sitting on their chest, pinning then down.
- Only 20 to 25% of people with narcolepsy have all four symptoms
(excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden loss of muscle function, sleep paralysis, hallucinations).
Narcolepsy is diagnosed through a sleep study, a set of medical tests including an overnight Polysomnogram (PSG) and a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), an all day test lasting roughly 10 hours and including 5 short naps in 2 hour intervals. Even when clear-cut cataplexy is present a sleep study is necessary to rule out sleep apnea and other possible sleep disorders contributing to EDS.
***Disclaimer: The content above is not solely my own. Stats and other info was comprised over various sites, compiled together and later edited, embellished or further noted upon by myself.***

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