Narcolepsy Causes Sudden Seizures of Sleep
Cataplexy, sudden loss of muscle strength, is another sign of the disease and appears in 60% to 90% of cases. According to Dalva, the problem can be partial (in only one group of muscles, such as face, neck and thigh) or total (in the whole body, which causes falls).
Narcolepsy causes sudden attacks of sleep - Photo: Getty Images
"The loss of tonus is normally triggered by emotions, with laughter being one of the main", explains the specialist. Euphoria, sadness, embarrassment, and orgasm can also cause cataplexy.
Hypnagogic hallucinations (when one is falling asleep) and hypnotic (when waking up) are also an indicator of narcolepsy, but may occur alone, unrelated to disease. The images that the individual sees usually seem very real, which scares. "The person does not know whether he is sleeping or not, but he seems to be dreaming," Dalva says.
Another symptom is sleep paralysis, which can also occur without narcolepsy. About 4% of people have at one time or another without this representing a health problem. "One of the stages of sleep is muscle atony (in which the muscles become paralyzed). When the brain wakes up at this stage, but the muscles do not, there is the so-called sleep paralysis," says the Unifesp professor. During this lag, the person may feel imminent death, as they can not move.
Narcolepsy Causes Sudden Seizures of Sleep - Photo: Getty Images
"If you see someone in this situation, the first thing is to explain that this is not a serious problem and to tell her to continue breathing that will pass. Usually, it spends up to a minute and does not need medicine, "she says. Another guideline that can be given is for the person to move the eyes. "There are studies that indicate that by doing this it is possible to get out of the episode more quickly," says Dalva.
Narcolepsy is more common after age 20, but can also target children. "Stress contributes to the development of the disease, but according to research the main cause appears to be genetic," says the Sleep Institute doctor. Because of this genetic alteration, the production of orexin (stimulating neurotransmitter) by the cells of a small nucleus of the hypothalamus is insufficient.
The disease has no cure but there are medicines that control the problem. "The goal is for the person to remain awake, so the drugs promote a state of alertness," explains Dalva.
Throughout life, the patient may have periods when he or she does not have the disorder and therefore does not need the medication . But the doctor warns that when they are not medicated and still feel the symptoms, narcoleptics should avoid operating machines and driving vehicles to reduce the risk of accidents.
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