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NARCOLEPSY/Sleep Disorder

Sleep Disorder, sleep apnea, or Narcolepsy- a chronic or neurological disorder is affecting the brain’s sleeping and waking control. Symptoms are excessive daytime sleep, cataplexy, and sleep paralysis.

Although many treatments are available, according to doctors, there is no permanent cure for this problem. By making specific changes in our lifestyle, we can control the effect of Narcolepsy in one’s life.

The only thing we can do is fool our brains. For example, our brain prepares us to go to sleep at night. But with this problem, we have to control our brains by telling ourselves when to sleep.

As per the survey, one or two percent of people in this world are affected by this problem.

Many people do not know about this problem. That is why when a person is sleeping without their knowledge or place, people start making fun of him.

Doctors say that the symptoms of Narcolepsy are seen in the teenage or mid-twenties. But are undiagnosed thinking of it as laziness or extreme tiredness?

Types of Narcolepsy
Type 1 Narcolepsy- A person with excessive daytime sleepiness with cataplexy(facial seizures), with a low-level chemical in the brain called “hypo cretin.”
Type 2 Narcolepsy- A person with excessive daytime sleepiness without cataplexy(facial seizures), with an average hypocretin level.

Hypocretin is a chemical signal/neurotransmitter in the brain which is essential for every person in regulating the sleep/wake cycle, which includes rapid eye movement (REM), also called dreaming sleep.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy
Excessive Daytime Sleep- This is a common symptom of a person having narcolepsy. It interferes with work, school, home, and social environment. Short naps may help make the person alert and rested, but the tired again comes back in one or two hours. A person feels extreme exhaustion, sleep, and mood swings.

Cataplexy- It is a sudden loss of muscle control in facial expression with strong emotions like laughter, crying, anger, fear, and so on. It can occur anytime when the person is awake. It ranges from stiffness in the facial muscle, which sometimes leads to body paralysis. It usually lasts from some seconds to a few minutes.

Disturbed Nighttime sleep- Frequently waking in the night.

Sleep Paralysis- Inability to move or speak just before and after waking up, which occurs for seconds to minutes.

Hallucinations- These occur just before sleeping. It is a delusional experience that is sometimes mild to frightening.

Sleep behavior sometimes occurs during eating, talking, driving, or writing without awareness or alertness.

Diagnosis and Treatments
There is various medication for Narcolepsy. Also, we can make a difference by changing our lifestyles.

Stimulants and sleeping pills are available depending on the intensity of the problem. But each medication has its side effects. In most cases, people get addicted to sleeping pills.

Antidepressants are prescribed for people suffering from Cataplexy, hallucination, and sleep paralysis.

But all the medications have side effects depending on the dosage prescribed for each person. It's better; we should change our lifestyle by avoiding these high-dosage medicines.

There are various ways we can overcome the problems of Narcolepsy to some extent.

1. Following the daily sleep/waking pattern, regardless of weekends or weekdays.
2. Avoid staying awake late at night.
3. Avoid watching television and mobile while going to sleep.
4. Avoiding Caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals/drinks before sleep.
5. Feel relaxed before going to bed and taking warm water baths, meditating, and listening to soothing songs.
6. Taking short naps for about 10- 15 mins, if required, in different intervals will keep the person alert and awake.

Narcolepsy can not be prevented, but its symptoms can be overcome to some extent. As per doctors, this is a lifelong sleeping disorder because there is no cure.

Some necessary things we must sacrifice to avoid any problems in life.
1. We should avoid driving if feeling sleepy, which is very dangerous.
2. If needed, we should not take long distances for driving.
3. Make yourself busy by singing songs, listening to music, taking a break, stretching yourself, or taking a nap for 15-20 mins before continuing driving.
4. If you are working, then we should adjust our work timings. But it depends on the employer whether they allow you to work with this problem.
5. Support from family, friends, and support groups.

It's been ten years; since I have been going through this problem. Every day is a challenge for me to control my sleep. I am busy with work, so my mind should not think about sleeping the whole day.

It started with excess tiredness. At first, I thought it would be because of the long travel to my office and home. Then another symptom, my facial expression started moving in one direction. I could not show emotions like a laugh, crying, or anger. Once I offered any of these emotions, I started trembling and falling.

I went to many doctors, but all in vain. They were unable to understand the cause of the problem.

In between, I got married. Along with my husband, again, I went to many doctors in Bangalore. But, again, it was hopeless.

During this time, one of my colleagues told me about a neuro doctor.

I met him and told him all my symptoms. Immediately, he asked me to take EEG and ECG.

It was through ECG; my neuro doctor told me it might be Sleep Disorder. In other words- Narcolepsy. With a Sleep test- Polysomnography(PSG) and multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT), it was confirmed.

One more thing he told me, along with the name of the problem, which was difficult for me to accept at that time. He said there is no permanent cure for this problem.

To this day, I have not shared all these things anywhere. But through this article, I am sharing my life experience.

I have worked for seven years with this problem. Some people understood my situation; some took it as to make fun of me. But I accepted every day as a challenge and have faced it confidently.

It was tough to stay calm, peaceful, and determined in front of those who made fun of me. But life has to move on, and so am I. We cannot control others' feelings.

Now, I have two kids. I am always busy with them. They make me strong to face sleep challenges. I had to be alert and avoid daytime sleeping in front of them so that they should not feel wrong about their mother, personally and socially.

There is no cure for Narcolepsy. It's a lifelong disorder.

I accept I am Narcoleptic.

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