Narcolepsy is a sleep problem characterized by the inability of the brain to control sleep-wake cycles. When we’re about to sleep, the mind usually goes through several stages of consciousness and this pattern happens to most people. When someone is suffering from this condition, his brain doesn’t know how to distinguish wakefulness and sleep.
Narcolepsy can be life-threatening especially when the attack occurs when the person needs to be completely awake and aware of its surroundings. Imagine you suddenly lose consciousness while walking or doing something that requires attention, it could turn into a chaotic situation. Normally it takes an hour until the brain enters the REM stage, but someone with narcolepsy does that much faster, like in 15 minutes. What are some narcolepsy symptoms?
Daytime sleepiness doesn’t always indicate narcolepsy. It’s very common, so it needs further examination to identify if the drowsiness is related to narcolepsy or not. A lack of sleep can also cause the same problem. However, it usually disappears once the body gets a proper rest. That doesn’t happen with narcolepsy because it typically persists, meaning that the sleepiness keeps coming back. This can later affect the person’s productivity and cognitive ability.
Sleep paralysis is a condition where we can’t utter words or move around during sleep-wake transitions. You may be fully aware of the surroundings, but it feels hard to do anything to flip into wakefulness. Just like daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis isn’t exclusively a narcolepsy symptom. You can experience sleep paralysis without having any underlying medical condition. This state can end abruptly within minutes and the person may be scared for feeling like he was trapped in very a strange situation.
Cataplexy is one of the most useful symptoms to identify someone with this neurological condition. It refers to the weakening of the muscles that occur suddenly. The patient may slur his speech, experience a double vision and other symptoms related to a loss muscle control. The sudden attack usually takes place when the person is going through a range of powerful emotions. They could be sad or happy, but research suggests that happy memories are the primary trigger in many of the cases. This symptom is closely linked to narcolepsy given that it’s experienced by over 70 percent of patients.
Of all narcolepsy symptoms, this is also prevalent among patients. Hallucinations mean having an experience of hearing, smelling, or seeing things that don’t actually exist. That’s just the brain playing tricks on you. However, the feelings can be so intense that the person becomes totally terrified. While hallucinations aren’t a specific symptom, many narcolepsy patients said they had them.