What is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times.

What causes narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is often caused by a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin (also known as orexin), which regulates wakefulness.

The lack of hypocretin is thought to be caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the cells that produce it or the receptors that allow it to work.

But this does not explain all cases of narcolepsy, and the exact cause of the problem is often unclear.

Things that have been suggested as possible triggers of narcolepsy include:

  • hormonal changes, which can occur during puberty or the menopause
  • major psychological stress
  • an infection, such as swine flu, or the medicine used to vaccinate against it (Pandemrix) 

Who’s affected

Narcolepsy is a fairly rare condition. It’s difficult to know exactly how many people have narcolepsy because many cases are thought to go unreported.

But it’s estimated to affect about 30,000 people in the UK.

Men and women are thought to be affected equally by narcolepsy, although some studies have suggested the condition may be more common in men.

The symptoms of narcolepsy often begin during adolescence, although it’s usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.

Treating narcolepsy

There’s currently no cure for narcolepsy, but making changes to improve your  sleeping habits and taking medicine can help minimise the impact the condition has on your daily life.

Taking frequent, brief naps evenly spaced throughout the day is one of the best ways to manage excessive daytime drowsiness.

This may be difficult when you’re at work or school, but your GP or specialist may be able to devise a sleep schedule that will help you get into a routine of taking naps.

Keeping to a strict bedtime routine can also help, so you should go to bed at the same time each night whenever possible.

If your symptoms are particularly troublesome, you may be prescribed medicine that can help reduce daytime sleepiness, prevent cataplexy attacks and improve your sleep at night.

These medicines are usually taken as daily tablets, capsules or drinkable solutions.

Are you affected by Narcolepsy? Do you know someone that is?

Send me a private message below, and let’s have a chat

Guy

For emergencies call 999 or visit your nearest hospital

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