“Over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness with 2 million of those being children. An estimated 10 million Americans remain undiagnosed.”
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that features excessive sleepiness, or even falling asleep at unusual or inappropriate times. Doctors at the Alabama Sleep Clinic will diagnose this disorder by excluding other sleep disorders, plus analyzing information gathered as a patient takes several naps. If you think you're suffering from this serious sleep disorder, make an appointment today with the Alabama Sleep Clinic.
What types of disorders are typically excluded before diagnosing narcolepsy?
Sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder are much more common than narcolepsy, and your sleep doctor will exclude those conditions before to making a diagnosis of narcolepsy. You'll likely be asked to participate in an overnight sleep study, although your doctor may recommend other options to diagnose narcolepsy. Your doctor will also explore other obvious causes of sleepiness, such as medications and insufficient sleep.
What is a napping test?
A napping test, also called a multiple sleep latency test, consists of taking a series of short naps. Your doctor will look to see how quickly you fall asleep and how quickly you enter into specific sleep stages (such as REM sleep). Information from napping tests give your doctor important clues to whether or not you have narcolepsy.
What unusual symptoms are associated with this disorder?
Although not necessary to make a diagnosis, the following symptoms are often associated with narcolepsy:
This can be a frightening condition where you feel paralyzed, but conscious, for several seconds to several minutes. This sensation usually happens as you're either falling asleep or waking up. In some cultures, sleep paralysis is sometimes referred to as being “ridden by the witch” or “the death grip.”
Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid and frightening dream-like experiences that occur when you're either going to sleep or waking up.
Cataplexy is a loss of muscle tone (weakness) that lasts for several seconds to several minutes. This weakness can range from subtle head droop, facial sagging or slurred speech, to substantial weakness in the arms and legs. Sometimes the weakness leads to the person collapsing. Often, these symptoms are triggered by a strong emotion. If you have this symptom, as well as excessive sleepiness, you probably have narcolepsy.
Is there a simple blood test for narcolepsy?
There is a test that can identify a unique genetic marker found in almost all people with narcolepsy. However, this marker is also found in 25% of the general population, severely limiting the usefulness of this test.
Can nighttime sleep be affected in narcolepsy?
Yes, narcolepsy often contributes to disrupted and fragmented sleep.
What treatments are available for narcolepsy?
Treatments are briefly discussed based on the symptom/problem they treat:
Making sure you have good sleep habits and taking planned naps is sometimes helpful, but medication is almost always necessary. A common medication prescribed today is armodafinil, which is a wake-promoting agent. You can find additional information at www.nuvigil.com. Other treatments include central nervous system stimulants such as Methylphenidate (Ritalin).
Your doctor may prescribe sedatives if your nighttime sleep is sufficiently disrupted.
Certain medications, most of which are considered antidepressants, are effective for many people.
For many people, narcolepsy can have a substantial and sometimes devastating impact on psychological, occupational, and social functioning. Counseling and support groups can be extremely helpful and accessed along with general information at the Narcolepsy Network.
For additional information on narcolepsy visit the Narcolepsy Network.