What is Narcolepsy?

Narkolepsi Nedir

Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by an increase in daytime sleepiness, sudden attacks of sleep or drowsiness, and disrupted nighttime sleep. The term “narcolepsy” is derived from the Greek words “narke” (sleep, numbness, lethargy) and “lepsis” (attack, seizure). While the comprehensive definition of narcolepsy was first provided by Jean Baptiste Edouard Gélineau in 1880, there are reports dating back to 1672 mentioning individuals who could perform their daily activities but would suddenly fall asleep while eating, laughing, or walking.

Causes of Narcolepsy: Although the exact cause of narcolepsy is not fully understood, it is believed to be related to a deficiency in a chemical in the brain called orexin or hypocretin. Sleep, a vital life need, is regulated by this chemical.

In addition to chemical imbalances, genetic disorders, hormonal changes, psychological traumas, sudden changes in sleep patterns, and various infections are mentioned as potential triggers for narcolepsy. The onset of narcolepsy in individuals typically occurs during adolescence and young adulthood.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy:

  1. Increased Daytime Sleepiness/Disrupted Nighttime Sleep:
    • Experiencing increased daytime sleepiness is one of the primary symptoms of narcolepsy. Individuals tend to fall asleep easily in still positions and comfortable situations, often experiencing a sudden need for sleep throughout the day. Despite the heightened daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy patients may face interruptions in their nighttime sleep.
  2. Cataplexy: Sudden Loss of Muscle Control:
    • Almost all narcolepsy patients experience cataplexy, characterized by a sudden loss of muscle strength. This phenomenon typically begins in the facial and neck muscles, leading to symptoms such as jaw slackening and head dropping.
  3. Hallucinations:
    • Hallucinations can occur before falling asleep, during the transition from sleep to wakefulness, or upon waking up.
  4. Sleep Paralysis:
    • Sleep paralysis is defined as the inability to perform voluntary movements despite being conscious. Narcolepsy patients may experience sleep paralysis during sleep, upon waking up at night, or in the morning.

Effects of Narcolepsy on Patients: Research on individuals with narcolepsy indicates the presence of professional challenges and reduced financial gains. Some narcolepsy patients report difficulties in everyday activities due to muscle weakness, leading to falls, dropping objects, accidents, etc.

Various sleep disorders such as sleep terror, sleepwalking, and narcolepsy can coexist in individuals with narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy patients may experience a decrease in metabolism rate, leading to weight gain.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Narcolepsy: The diagnosis of narcolepsy involves considering various measurements, including the patient’s medical history, blood oxygen levels, sleep-related brain wave activities, eye and leg movements during sleep, daytime sleepiness levels, and hypocretin levels.

Treatment aims to reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy and improve the quality of life. Pharmacological and psychological treatment methods are utilized for this purpose. Additionally, making lifestyle adjustments related to physical activities, sleep routines, and dietary habits can contribute positively to the treatment.

References:

  • Karadağ, M. G. (2008). Narkolepsili hastalarda omega 3 yağ asitlerinin uyku, plazma oreksin A düzeyine etkisi ve hastaların beslenme durumlarının değerlendirilmesi. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation) Hacettepe University Institute of Health Sciences Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Ankara.
  • Yılmaz, K. (2015). Güncel Bilgiler Işığında Narkolepsi. Journal of Turkish Sleep Medicine, 2(1).
  • Yüceer, H. (2019). Narkolepsiye özgü otoantikorların immünopresipitasyon ve kütle spektrofotometre ile tanımlanması ve validasyonu. (Unpublished master’s thesis) Istanbul University Institute of Health Sciences Department of Neuroscience, Istanbul.
  • NHS – Narcolepsy Causes

 

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