Travellers napping is a common sight when using public transport in the morning as well as in the evening. During the rush hours of the day, one or two people in an office doze off during working hours.
“It’s common to feel sleepy after meals, while being inactive for a long time just after meals. Anyone getting a little sleepy around 2.00 pm is also common because of the circadian rhythm (the biological clock ticking inside the human and controlling the sleep-wake cycle). Being unusually sleepy or having a strong urge to sleep, appearing to be sleep deprived for 40 - 72 hours a day aren’t good signs. This sleepiness disturbs the day-to-day activities and is uncontrollable. This is a rare condition known as narcolepsy, a chronic neurological and sleep disorder with the tendency to fall asleep excessively at any time. There is a probability of 1 of 2000 people developing this condition,” Clinical Neurophysiologist at the National Hospital Dr. Sudath Gunasekera said.
“The clearly recognizable sign of Narcolepsy is sleep attacks occurring at any time of the day, Dr. Gunasekera said. It’s difficult to identify narcolepsy without a proper clinical diagnosis (Multiple Sleep Latency Test - MSLT). No other illnesses are associated with narcolepsy. If a mother or a father has a strong genetic link with narcolepsy, then there is a possibility of their children developing this condition. A narcoleptic will fall asleep even during an exciting activity. This is often erroneously diagnosed as, epilepsy, drug side - effects or depression” Dr. Gunasekera further clarified.
In cataplexy, the patient suddenly collapses after losing muscle tone. According to internet sources, it has been identified that cataplexy and narcolepsy are related and there are people suffering from both diseases.
Sleep paralysis is yet another complication related to narcolepsy. Those affected are unable to fall asleep no matter how hard they feel the urge to sleep. Scary hallucinations are also a common characteristic of sleep paralysis, according to the doctor.
Clarifying on the age group of narcolepsy patients he told “Usually the young suffer more from narcolepsy.”
There are medicinal as well as behavioural treatments for narcolepsy. A CSH Test and a daytime sleep study and multiple sleep latency tests are available to determine the disease. Having short naps from time to time throughout the day will help ease off sleepiness, said the doctor.
Pay close attention
“Anyone who suspects to have narcolepsy signs and symptoms should pay close attention to own sleep habits, regardless of whether they know when they are falling asleep or not. Some experience the sudden loss of moments, where he or she falls asleep unconsciously. These sleep attacks could appear while someone is driving, cooking or engaged in any dangerous day-to-day work,” Dr. Gunasekera explained.
Medication and lifestyle help change a narcoleptic’s life for the better. Even if it is considered incurable, a narcoleptic can have a positive life too, concluded Dr. Gunasekera.