Glossary

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a relatively rare condition which occurs in 1 in 3,000 Caucasians, 1 in 600 Japanese individuals and only 1 in 500,000 Jewish people. It is partly genetic and is often triggered by a traumatic event. 

Narcolepsy comprises of four major symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy in which people suddenly lose muscle power usually as a result of a strong emotion such as crying, laughing or surprise.  The other symptoms are sleep paralysis where people sometimes wake up and feel that they cannot move and the last major symptoms is what is referred to hypnogogic or hypnopompic hallucinations in which people feel that they have entered a dream before they have fallen asleep or continue dreaming once they have woken up and may find this extremely frightening.  One of the disconcerting features of narcolepsy is the experience of automatic behavior in which a person gets from point A to point B but doesn’t realize how they have made that journey.

The treatment of narcolepsy rests in two major halves.  The first part is the role of the sleep physician in advocating for the patient.  This particularly is for people at school or in a work environment in which the doctor may need to be lobbying on behalf of the patient to ensure that there is accommodation for their difficulty.  The second part of the treatment is medication treatment both for the issues of staying awake, as well as the muscle weakness that occurs and also the frequent disruption of sleep.

 
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