What is Narcolepsy?



What Is Narcolepsy? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and How to Cope With It

The Definition, Types, and Causes of Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects about 1 in 2,000 people (meaning it’s not extremely common but not necessarily a rare disease either). (2) Doctors suspect it’s often underdiagnosed, as it often gets mistaken for other sleep problems (such as sleep apnea or insomnia) because some of the most common symptoms do overlap. (That means current estimates may be much lower than the true number of people actually affected by narcolepsy.)

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10 Quick Narcolepsy Facts

Narcolepsy is defined as a neurological condition for which the brain’s ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles is impaired. Individuals with this sleep disorder frequently experience trouble sleeping at night and periods of intense sleepiness during the daytime because the various stages of sleep come at the wrong times.

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People with narcolepsy may fall asleep uncontrollably, in some cases right in the middle of an activity like laughing, eating, or talking, says , an associate professor of medicine and sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic and a board member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. These “sleep attacks” are usually brief, lasting anywhere from several seconds to minutes, but they can also go for as long as several hours. (3)

There Are Two Different Types of Narcolepsy

Doctors categorize narcolepsy as one of two forms: type 1 and type 2. In type 1 narcolepsy, people have unusually low levels of a brain chemical called hypocretin, which plays a key role in preventing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep from occurring at the wrong time (REM sleep follows the deepest stage of sleep, and is when dreaming and key processes involved in making memories occur). (4) People with type 1 narcolepsy also typically have cataplexy.

With type 2 narcolepsy, which is a milder form of narcolepsy, people have normal levels of hypocretin and do not have cataplexy. (5)In some instances, individuals may start out with type 2 narcolepsy and then later develop cataplexy, Olson says. (6,7)

Both Types of Narcolepsy Are Presumed to Be an Autoimmune Disease

It was not until the early 2000s that research revealed that people with type 1 narcolepsy have abnormally low levels of hyopocretin (a chemical in the brain that helps regulate sleep and wakefulness). (8)

Doctors do not yet know exactly what causes the hypocretin loss, but they suspect that it may have something to do with the immune system mistakenly attacking these brain cells, which help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and prevents REM sleep from happening at the wrong time, explains , a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, who led some of the initial research that linked hypocretin loss to narcolepsy. (9)

That means people are not born with narcolepsy, but rather they may or may not have the genetic predisposition to develop the condition, Mignot says. In some people with this genetic predisposition, something goes awry when the immune system goes into action to fight off the , and in error attacks the hypocretin neurons.






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Date: 11.12.2018, 02:08 / Views: 83233