While most people know that sleep is important, they often don’t realize just how important it is. From regulating your weight to enhancing your mental acuity and reducing your blood pressure, sleep affects just about every major function in your body, which is why it is not a luxury. Humans need rest, and if you don’t get enough of it, you will face some serious health implications. This is why narcolepsy is one of the most difficult conditions to deal with, and it can have devastating effects on a person.
What Is Narcolepsy?
It is often a chronic neurological problem that distorts your brain’s ability to regulate your sleep cycle, leading to several problems. It is believed that narcolepsy is caused by the lack of a chemical called hypocretin, which is produced by the brain and is responsible for regulating your sleep-wake cycle. As a result, patients feel very sleepy throughout the day, and might even suffer uncontrollable sleep bouts without knowing. A patient suffering from narcolepsy could easily fall asleep while driving or talking to someone, which can be catastrophic at times.
What Triggers Narcolepsy?
A lot of different factors can trigger narcolepsy. It could happen due to some sort of genetic fault with the person’s body, leading to irregular sleep cycles. Another reason is that, sometimes, the antibodies in a person’s body mistake healthy tissues and cells for diseases and toxins, which in certain cases, leads to the targeting of the cells responsible for producing hypocretin in the body. As explained by Sleep Authorities, stress can also be one of the main triggers leading to narcolepsy, which is why it is important for any person with sleep disturbances to avoid any stress-inducing factors. Other triggers of narcolepsy include hormonal changes, like those that happen during menopause or puberty. If you make a sudden change in your sleep patterns, this can also lead to some form of narcolepsy and the problems associated with it. Last but not least, an infection in the body might lead to this disease, like streptococcal infections, for example.
How Does It Affect the Body?
Unlike insomniacs, narcoleptics don’t necessarily sleepless, it is the quality of their sleep that is severely damaged by the disease. Interrupted sleep is very common among narcoleptics, which happens because their cycles are shuffled in an unnatural way. Your brain enters into different stages while you sleep, starting with non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement.
(REM) — the latter is the one in which you dream. A normal person’s brain usually alternates between the two types throughout the night when they sleep, and the REM should be the prevalent state if you have no problems. What happens with narcolepsy is those patterns get mixed up, which causes complications.
As mentioned earlier, a person suffering from narcolepsy might fall asleep involuntarily during the day, not to mention feel sleepy all day long. Another symptom that some narcoleptics suffer from is muscle weakness when they’re awake –– feeling like they can’t move or use their limbs. Others suffer from hallucinations or very vivid dreams even while they are awake, which is because their brain is suffering from the fragmented sleep cycle.
A person usually takes an hour or so to get into REM when they sleep. With narcoleptics, they might dive right into that as soon as they fall asleep. This leads some to suffer from sleep paralysis, even while they are still conscious. This also might be the case when they wake up. If you don’t already know it, sleep paralysis feels like being trapped in your own body, unable to move or do anything, and it’s one of the worst symptoms that many narcoleptics have to endure.
Last but not least, some narcoleptics find themselves suffering from insomnia in certain cases, as they struggle with trying to fall asleep during the night, despite the drowsiness they feel during the day. Others deal with sleep apnea, in which their breathing stops while they are asleep and then resumes, and it could cause serious health complications if left untreated.
The same can be said about narcolepsy, actually. If it is left untreated, it can interfere not only with a person’s psychological and physical functions but also with their social life. Many patients have to go through awkward situations where they fall asleep during work or when a person is talking to them, which can be embarrassing on many levels. Between the exhaustion and physical complications, narcolepsy is a serious condition that should never be taken lightly or ignored.
Tags: chronic neurological problem, LA Guestlist, Los Angeles, Narcolepsy, REM, Sleep Disorders, Sleep Paralysis, sleep-wake cycle
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