Sanrai Med INDIA
Living with Narcolepsy – Know the signs to manage it right

Did you know that 21% of all fatal automotive accidents are due to drowsy driving or falling asleep on the wheel? A survey by Harvard Medical School noted that drowsiness or sleep accounted for a staggering 270,000 workplace accidents, 100,000 traffic crashes and 70,000 injuries yearly in the US alone. Globally, 16-25% of all fatal traffic accidents and 20% of the total traffic accidents in a year are attributed to sleepy drivers. A study published in NCBI noted that over 45% of these accidents are due to sleep disorders.

What are sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders or sleep-wake disorders, interfere with the quality and amount of sleep you get every night, resulting in daytime distress and impaired functioning. Sleep-wake disorders occur in both healthy individuals and those with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or other cognitive disorders. There are many different types of sleep disorders known today. The most common ones include:

·         Sleep Apnea—repeated sleep-wake cycles and snoring caused by airways getting blocked due to muscle relaxation, causing oxygen deprivation in the brain during sleep.

·         Narcolepsy—a sudden urge to fall asleep at any time and an inability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

·         Insomnia—involves difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night.

·         Restless Legs Syndrome—an uncontrollable urge to move your legs while resting or sleeping.

·         REM Sleep behaviour disorder—acting out your dreams, such as shouting, talking, punching and screaming while asleep.

What is narcolepsy? Why is it considered to be more dangerous than other sleep disorders?

Narcolepsy is possibly one of the most dangerous disorders on the list as it is characterized by overwhelming daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks that can cause individuals to fall asleep while driving, eating, working, walking, or doing just about anything. Narcolepsy seriously disrupts your daily routine and must immediately be diagnosed by a medical professional.

What causes narcolepsy?

There is no single known cause for narcolepsy. This disease is not congenital and can occur without any reason. Medical professionals believe that a mix of the following can cause narcolepsy:

·         brain injuries

·         autoimmune disorders

·         viral infections

·         genetics

What are the main symptoms of narcolepsy?

Healthcare workers often use the acronym CHESS to describe the symptoms of narcolepsy. These symptoms include:

·         Cataplexy

Cataplexy is the most specific symptom of narcolepsy, seen in over 65-75% patients. Cataplexy is the sudden loss of muscle tone (muscle weakness) while conscious. This is usually triggered by emotions such as laughter, surprise or anger. Patients describe this symptom as feeling weak in the knees, a drooping face or eyelids, slurred speech, dropping head or falling. A cataplexy episode rarely lasts over 2-3 minutes.

·         Hallucinations

These appear to patients as visions or dreamlike visions where you can see things that are not there. Hallucinations that occur while falling asleep are termed hypnagogic hallucinations, and those that occur when waking up are termed as hypnopompic hallucinations. These episodes can occur with sleep paralysis.

·         Excessive daytime sleepiness

This is the most common symptom of narcolepsy and affects almost every patient of this disease. Excessive daytime sleepiness is the inability to stay alert and awake at daytime and can result in traffic or workplace accidents due to the patient’s urge to fall asleep immediately.

·         Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis affects up to 50% of those suffering from narcolepsy. Sufferers are unable to move or talk during sleep-wake transitions. Hallucinations often accompany this.

·         Sleep Disruption

Sleep disruption is characterized by frequent awakening and results in poor quality sleep. Over 30-90% of narcolepsy patients suffer from sleep disruption.

Co-morbidities associated with narcolepsy

Patients suffering from narcolepsy are also at an increased risk of many life-threatening cardiovascular and cardiometabolic conditions. These co-morbidities include:

·         2x higher risk of Heart disease

·         1.3x higher risk of Hypertension

·         2.3x higher incidents of Obesity

·         1.8x more chances of developing Diabetes

·         1.5x Increased incidents of Hyper-cholesterolemia

·         2.5x increased incidents of Stroke

Is there a cure for narcolepsy?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for narcolepsy. Patients can only try to manage the disease through lifestyle changes and stimulants to lead a healthy, safe life.

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

The first step towards diagnosing narcolepsy is visiting your healthcare provider and discussing your symptoms. If they believe you have narcolepsy, they will usually perform the following non-invasive test:

·         Overnight sleep study

You must visit a sleep center for this test. Technicians attach sensors to your body to measure and monitor muscle and eye movements, heart rate, oxygen saturation and breathing. Doctors will be able to measure how well you sleep and if other sleep problems are causing your symptoms.

·         MSLT or Multiple Sleep latency test

MSLT is a daytime test performed a day after you perform your sleep study. This test checks your propensity to fall asleep during the daytime by giving you four to five chances to nap throughout the day. Doctors observe how fast you fall asleep, and the sleep stages you undergo.

Do you think you have narcolepsy?
Visiting your doctor is the first step in determining if you have narcolepsy. If you feel excessively sleepy during the daytime and cannot lead a normal routine everyday, you may have a sleep disorder that must be diagnosed immediately.
Final thoughts
Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea and insomnia are commonplace, and diagnosis and prevention are often the only cure for these diseases. At Sanrai, we are committed to your good health and offer innovative diagnostics and devices to address the symptoms of sleep disorders. Contact us to know more about how we can help you manage your sleep better today!







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