Narcolepsy: The sleeping disease
There are over 3 million cases of narcolepsy and is estimated by medical reports that 200,000 Americans, but just under 50,000 are actually officially diagnosed by a doctor. It has been said that it’s widespread like the neurological disease Parkinson’s disorder. This condition is usually recognized in both men and women at any age, yet the symptoms are usually first noticed in teenagers and younger age adults usually in their 20s and early 30s.
It’s been noted that there is a 15-year between the onset and actual diagnosis of the problem, which has contributed to the debilitating features of this particular disorder. Those who deal with narcolepsy have a plethora of cognitive, educational, occupational, and psychological issues that can arise from this problem. The presence of narcolepsy is 1 in 2000 people and is also found in people with diagnosed learning disabilities and currently, the treatment options are very limited.
The studies that were conducted for this concluded that this problem is constantly under-diagnosed in the general population in society. Some narcoleptics don’t show any signs visibly and the severity of the condition varies from person to person.
This is where medical science has its blunders because of the fact that this condition is so underdiagnosed that it’s hard to really get a grasp of the severity of this problem because it varies in levels from noticeable to barely obvious.
Polysomnogram and Multiple Sleep Latency exams are the two tests that are done to give a formal and correct diagnostic approach to the condition and usually, this is where the diagnosis presents the level of severity so that it’s properly noted by a specialist to ensure a proper treatment plan for that person. Tests are conducted in two-hour increments to allow the person to sleep and usually the polysomnogram test does a continuous test of brain activity when it’s in REM sleep mode when sleep happens at night.
Usually, most narcoleptics fall asleep in nighttime sleep mode fairly quickly. There are several methods of treatments for people with narcolepsy and usually, it consists of anti-depressants and planned short-timed naps have also been helpful to lower the dependence on medicinal treatments and allowing the body to do what it should be doing naturally. Retraining the body to sleep at a reasonable time has helped those with narcolepsy to recognize sleeping at night and taking short naps during the day so that their body stays alert because a lot of narcoleptics have been putting themselves and others at risk when they fall asleep during their normal workday or even driving or operating machinery.
With the new wave of holistic medicine being readily available to help people with conditions from the skin to psychological issues. Narcoleptics can also work with a treatment plan that includes a change in diet and incorporating exercise and taking nutritional supplements and formulas to give someone added nutrition if they’re not getting enough from the food they eat.
Narcolepsy is manageable if you follow the doctor’s instructions and taking medications when you’re supposed to and following therapy plans that are designed for that person to follow to the last detail.
Narcolepsy – A Rare Sleep Disorder
Narcolepsy, a relatively rare sleep disorder, causes people to fall asleep when they do not want to. This is caused by a neurological disorder. The brain sends signals to the body that are sleep-inducing; however, they are sent at inappropriate and unpredictable times. Often it happens when a person is involved in a quiet activity, such as watching a movie or during a meeting. Sometimes a person with this sleep disorder falls asleep while driving, which is obviously extremely dangerous. Others fall asleep while they are eating or talking. The overwhelming need to sleep can come at any hour of the day during any activity.
People suffering from narcolepsy often do not realize how sleepy they are, nor how often they fall asleep. It is often a family member, friend or coworker that convinces them that they need to seek medical help for their sleep disorder.
Narcolepsy has five main symptoms. These are excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, and fragmented sleep, sleep paralysis, cataplexy and hypnagogic hallucinations. Some people with this sleep disorder experience only one symptom but others can experience all five.
Excessive daytime sleepiness is generally the first symptom to appear. Everyone with narcolepsy has this symptom. The feeling of needing to sleep is so strong that sufferers are unable to fend it off, regardless of how hard they try. These sleep attacks, as they are usually called, can happen several times and last for five to ten minutes.
Insomnia and fragmented sleep are very common symptoms of this sleep disorder. People with narcolepsy often have a very difficult time falling asleep at night, even though they fall asleep easily throughout the day. When they do fall asleep at night they wake up often and do not follow a typical REM / non REM sleep pattern.
Sleep paralysis occurs in about half of the people that suffer from this sleep disorder. For several minutes before falling to sleep or waking up, the person with this symptom cannot talk or move.
The loss of muscle function while awake is cataplexy. These episodes are usually very short in length. Over half of the people with narcolepsy experience this symptom of this sleep disorder. They are caused by a part of REM not functioning correctly. Often, episodes are brought on by anger, laughter or any other strong emotion. Sometimes knees buckle, necks and jaws become weak or the person may fall to the ground. Even though the person looks like they are asleep and cannot talk, they are fully awake and aware of what is happening.
A hypnagogic hallucination is experiencing very vivid and often frightening sounds, images or physical sensations. These occur from dreams just before the person is falling asleep or waking up. It is very difficult for a person with this sleep disorder to distinguish between the dream and reality. These hallucinations often have very dangerous themes and are extremely frightening. Often they are accompanied by sleep paralysis.
There are also several lesser symptoms of narcolepsy. These include blurred vision, migraine headaches, memory or concentration problems, and automatic behavior. An apostate of automatic behavior can last for several minutes. During that time a person with this sleep disorder will perform a routine task. The task is often done incorrectly, such as placing a turkey in the dishwasher or writing past the end of a page.
Narcolepsy can be diagnosed and treated with various drugs. If left untreated this sleep disorder can ruin a person’s life.
Muscle pain and sleeplessness
Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that affects the muscles and joints and is seen in only 3-6% of the general population in the world. It’s generally seen more in females than males with a ratio percentage of 9.1 according to the College of Rheumatology and is commonly diagnosed in females between the ages of 20-50 though it’s been noted that the onset happens in childhood. This is not a life-threatening disease through the degree of pain in the condition can vary day to day with periods of flare-ups and remission. The disease is being argued and viewed as non-progressive, but that’s a point that remains in limbo.
This is a problematic issue that can be a reason to keep someone up at night because the pain can be unbearable with the tingling and achiness in the muscles. This drives many who deal with this to endless and chronic deprivation of sleep. Those who suffer fibromyalgia also note issues with memory and other neurological issues, but the most frequent is the issues with sleeping that individuals go through when they deal with painful, annoying flare-ups.
Other issues that surround this problem, which can make sleeping very difficult, are irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, which affects mostly women and a few men. Skin disorders like dermatological disorders, headaches, myofascial twitching, and symptomatic hypoglycemia. Stress, excessive physical exertion, lack of sleep, changes in temperature and barometric pressure. This condition can worsen when individuals don’t sleep or getting the proper rest and not overdoing on things in their daily lives.
The American Medical Association had officially recognized fibromyalgia as a medical condition back in 1987 when the disorder was around since the 1800s. It’s been said that flare-ups are not identical to the ones that are found in people with rheumatoid arthritis, but ibuprofen like Advil, Acenomenofen (Tylenol), and Naproxen (Aleve) which are anti-inflammatory and can bring some comfort to those with fibromyalgia flare-ups. Massage has also been ideal in helping those who deal with fibromyalgia to find comfort when they have flare-ups. Massage helps to transfer fluids from the muscles and joints and increases circulation to the affected areas to bring some temporary relief for inflammation and flare-ups.
This can actually help improve sleep for someone in pain, but it’s best to get a message when you’re not on any medication due to the high risk of side effects that can be triggered by massaging tissue and muscles.
Fibromyalgia is a manageable problem if you follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medication as directed and getting the right amount of sleep and getting plenty of exercises and eating a nutritious diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water and limiting things in the diet that can also aggravate flare-ups. When you take care of yourself properly you can actually improve the quality of sleep as well as decreasing the debilitating pain.
That can keep someone up all night long instead of allowing them to sleep and getting in a decent amount of time for rest and feeling stress-free and more relaxed so that they can face the day with no painful flare-ups and discomfort that can be annoying.
Jet Lag Syndrome
This is the second most popular sleep disorder and usually affects international flights and if it’s domestic if they’re going between time zones. This is what you call knocking your body clock out of sync because when you’re traveling across different time zones especially at the international level because that can throw you off an entire day if you’re coming from the west going east from New York to London or Los Angeles to Tokyo or Sydney which can throw you off since you cross the international dateline which is one day ahead and behind.
It seems as if women are more affected than men and according to medical reports its because the natural hormone estrogen and it’s triggered when the body when accustomed to normal daytime and nighttime rhythms, therefore, you’re upsetting the body’s natural state of corresponding with a specific time of day and it can even interrupt eating patterns as well. It can take up to several days to even a full week to regain some normalcy on the time and place once you’ve had time to sleep yourself into adjustment mode.
The symptoms of jet lag vary by the individual person and symptoms can include or be a combination of dehydration which can trigger minor disorientation, and loss of appetite, headaches and sinus irritations, fatigue, grogginess, nausea and/or vomiting from an upset stomach, irritability, and mild depression. Jet lag is not linked to the length of a flight, but the transmedia distance traveled. For example, if you flew from New York and Los Angeles which is approximately 5 hours you will feel some jet lag crossing the Central and Mountain time zones. Jet lag can be extremely difficult in places like Alaska and Russia because of the fact that Alaska only sees a short amount of daylight and Russia has 11 different time zones and can really throw someone off if they were flying from Copenhagen to Tokyo.
Usually, people that are prone to this are often given sedatives by their doctors to help them sleep through the flight and to wake up without the effects of jet lag when they land in their destination.
Ways to recover quicker from jet lag is proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep because you’ll be surprised to know that people who don’t sleep or get enough rest and relaxation will deal with it later when they land and the disorientation sets in. Sunlight according to doctors says can help reset your body’s clock back in synch.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the severity of jet lag because it affects people differently and usually people who travel on international flights are less likely to deal with a jet lag because they’re used to the constant change. And have managed to adapt to those changes since some travel monthly for business and usually it’s business travelers who deal with jet lag more than those who go for vacations.
Business travelers fly at odd times which can throw someone off because they’re flying out super early or catching the red-eye somewhere to arrive the next day.
Most people don’t realize they oversleep when they have a condition called hypersomnia and that’s due in part to recurring episodes of excessive daytime sleeping and prolonged nighttime sleep. This is different from the average person taking that midday nap when they do it at sometimes the most inappropriate times like at work, during meals, or even in conversation with people.
Hypersomnia is also diagnosed with narcolepsy, which can be quite dangerous because some individuals are behind the wheel of cars or even cooking in their homes and aren’t aware that they fell asleep. Some hypersomnias and narcoleptics can fall asleep and then wake up and resume where they left off in conversations with people. Usually, daytime naps usually provide no relief or symptoms to the problem(s) and will result in the individual(s) having increased difficulty in waking from a long extended period of sleeping, disorientation, anxiety, decreased energy, increased fatigue, restlessness, slow thinking, slow speech, loss of appetite, hallucinations, and problems with memory functions.
Some individuals also experience losing the ability to function in a normal family, social, occupational, and other settings familiar to that person.
Hypersomnia can be triggered by sleep apnea or narcolepsy, where it can lead to dysfunction of the autonomic nerve system, which can be brought on, by acute alcohol and/or drug abuse. In some cases rare or not it can also be triggered by physical problems such as tumors, head trauma or injuries to the nervous system. Specific medications or withdrawal of medications and/or drugs may contribute to someone having hypersomnia. Medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, depression, encephalitis, epilepsy, and obesity can contribute to hypersomnia as well.
It’s also been noted that those who have hypersomnia are also genetically dispositioned to this problem whereas in others there’s no known or documented cause. Hypersomnia typically affects adolescents and young adults in their 20s and 30s. Although the most common causes of this disorder differ in the age brackets. Information can be located on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes website if you’re seeking a more thorough clinical explanation to this problem. This isn’t a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician so it’s ideal to educate yourself, but leave the diagnosing and treatment to a doctor so that your condition can be monitored closely.
People who are not seeing a doctor when they identify problems that are not normal for them to experience are misdiagnosing too many issues with sleep. Persons who are severely obese can also have a difficult time losing the weight because of the fact that lack of sleep can increase the body’s metabolic rate, which can trigger excessive hunger in those who are trying to lose weight.
This is why so many people who are obese are eating more than they should because a lot of them sleep so much that they wake up wanting to eat when they should be sleeping like normal people do and not up at all hours of the night wanting to eat. This is why it’s harder for people who are obese to lose weight when they sleep too much and not training their body to rest instead of wanting to eat food.
Children With the Sleep Disorder of Sleepwalking
The sleep disorder of sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, affects approximately 14% of school-age children between five and twelve years old at least once. Approximately one-quarter of the children with this sleep disorder have more frequent episodes. Sleepwalking is more common in boys then it is in girls. Most children that sleepwalk outgrow the symptoms of this sleep disorder by adolescence as their nervous systems develop.
In children, this sleep disorder is thought to be the result of the immaturity of the brain’s sleep/wake cycle. Normally the entire brain wakes up at the same time. However, in the case of a sleepwalker, the entire brain does not wake up together. The portion that is responsible for mobility wakes up while the portion responsible for cognition and awareness stays asleep. The child is actually in a deep state of sleep.
With this sleep disorder, the brain remains partially asleep but the body is able to move. It is common for the sleepwalker to get out of bed and walk around. Sometimes they get dressed or go outside. Even though the sleepwalker’s eyes are open and they see what they are doing, their expression remains blank. They do not respond to a conversation or their name being called. A sleepwalker’s movements usually appear clumsy. It is not uncommon for them to trip over furniture or knock over things as they move around. A sleepwalking episode usually happens one to two hours after the child goes to sleep. Most of these episodes last for fifteen minutes or less, but some can last for an hour or more.
This sleep disorder in children is usually outgrown and treatment is not generally necessary. In most cases, a parent gently guiding the child back to bed is all that is needed. There is not any need to wake the child.
However, there is about 1% of the population that sleepwalk as adults. Adults that have this sleep disorder did not necessarily have it as a child. In adults, a sleepwalking episode can be triggered by stress, anxiety, sleep fragmentation, sleep deprivation, or certain medical conditions such as epilepsy.
Treatment for adults with this sleep disorder is often dependent upon the amount of danger they are in during an episode. For example, a sleepwalker who opens doors and goes outside onto a busy city street is in danger. A sleepwalker that gets up and goes into the living room and sits down on a chair most likely is not in danger. Treatments can include behavioral therapies, self-hypnosis, or prescription medication.
A sleepwalker, whether adult or child, needs to have a safe area so that they do not get hurt during an episode. Precautions can be taken to eliminate some dangers. Parents should make sure the child’s bedroom does not have any sharp or breakable objects. Doors should be locked at night to keep the sleepwalker from going outside. Sometimes it is necessary to put bells on doors to alert the sleeping parent that their child is sleepwalking. Large glass windows and doors should be covered with heavy drapery to lessen the chance of having the sleepwalker walk through it while it is closed.
A child with the sleep disorder of somnambulism needs to be protected and kept safe during an episode. It is the environment they are in that is the danger more than the sleep disorder itself.