Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological sleep disorder that affects at least 1 out of 2000 Americans. Narcolepsy causes excessive day time sleepiness (EDS), and interferes with the everyday life of those suffering from it. The unfortunate truth is that there no cure for narcolepsy though it can be managed through prescribed medications.
Narcolepsy is characterized and diagnosed through falling asleep during the day, most concerning being that patients can also doze off in the middle of activities or conversations. Hence narcolepsy can be particularly dangerous and in some cases life threatening if the person is driving or operating heavy machinery, since it is almost impossible to avoid nodding off.
Other symptoms of narcolepsy include cataplexy, sleep paralysis, automatic behavior and hallucinations. However, these symptoms do not occur on a regular basis. Some of these only occur once in about 10.000 cases.
Cataplexy is triggered by emotional changes such as feelings of surprise, fear or happiness, when suddenly the body experiences a sudden loss of muscle control, accompanied by feelings of weakness. This lack of control could be mild to severe depending on the muscle(s) affected.
Sleep paralysis is a brief paralysis of the body that occurs when the patient is either trying to sleep or waking up. Automatic behavior is defined as the period of absence of mind, such that a person is apparently awake and engaging in normal behavior bur has no memory of it. People suffering from narcolepsy often have hallucinations that are negative and frightening in nature.
The presence of narcolepsy in a patient is determined genetically, due to a deficiency of the protein Orexin A. This disorder affects approximately 3 million people, between the ages of 15 and 25.