Narcolepsy is relatively rare, affecting around 1 in 2,000, and is a neurological disorder which affects the brain’s sleep regulation mechanism. It can cause sufferers to suddenly fall asleep in the middle of the day, during regular activities, which clearly can have a big impact on a sufferer’s life.
Suddenly falling asleep, even if just for a few seconds, can be incredibly dangerous, for example if it were to happen while you were driving a car, so narcolepsy can cause major problems if left untreated.
It has an impact on memory and concentration as it can cause poor quality sleep at night as well, and can cause mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, due to the impact it has on daily life.
Falling asleep during the day can make a working life difficult and feeling tired all the time will also have an impact on personal and intimate relationships as it can lower libido as well.
Some of the common symptoms linked to narcolepsy include muscle control when facing a strong emotion, hallucinations, temporary sleep paralysis when you wake up, being awake at night time and falling asleep in the day.
There is currently no cure for narcolepsy however there are treatments which can help to control the symptoms and regain control over your life, such as Modafinil. This is a prescription-only medication which promotes wakefulness in the body.
Modafinil is generally safe but it is a prescription-only drug and should only ever be used under the guidance of a health professional. It works by stimulating the parts of the brain linked to being awake, alert and motivated, helping narcolepsy sufferers to stay awake during the day.
Because there is no cure, and it can be so disruptive to daily life, narcolepsy patients can often suffer from depression and anxiety as they become fearful about suddenly falling asleep, so counselling and support groups are an important support mechanism for sufferers to help cope with the condition.
There are some lifestyle changes which can help symptoms, such as watching your exercise, diet and stress management. Another way to help combat the symptoms is following a regular sleep cycle, so making sure you go to bed and get up at the same time every single day. This has been proven to help with narcolepsy symptoms.
Also having regular naps can help to stop unplanned sleep attacks so having planned short naps during the day is another way to help. Narcolepsy sufferers should avoid substances which can interfere with regular sleep including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine as well.
Relaxation and regular exercise can also help with the condition symptoms, reducing tiredness during the day and helping sufferers to cope better with stress and depression generally. The condition, lack of sleep and fear and embarrassment, can all exacerbate anxiety and depression in narcolepsy sufferers.
If you suspect you have narcolepsy it’s important to speak to your doctor to get a medical diagnosis as feeling sleepy during the day and general drowsiness could be symptoms of a number of different conditions.
Your doctor will most likely refer you to a neurologist if they suspect narcolepsy, and the diagnosis will be the result of specialist tests carried out by the consultant. You should only seek prescription medication such as Modafinil, after you have received an official diagnosis from your doctor or a specialist.
If you do require prescription medication to help relieve the symptoms of narcolepsy you should always read the patient information leaflet before taking the tablets, so that you understand the risks and any potential side effects which might occur.
You must inform your doctor or pharmacist of any other underlying health condition you have, and any other medication or supplement you are taking, before using Modafinil, as some conditions and medicines can interact with it and change the way it works.
It’s really important to use Modafinil only according to instructions from a medical professional, to avoid any risk of serious side effects or health complications.
While narcolepsy can be an embarrassing condition which impacts hugely on everyday life, making changes to lifestyle, improving sleeping routines, and possibly using prescription medication, can all manage the symptoms and make this rare condition easier to live with.
If you think you have narcolepsy then seek medical advice and if the condition has had a major impact then look for counselling and support to make sure you also manage related symptoms such as depression and anxiety.