Narcolepsy - The Management
of a Common Sleep Disorder
by Donald Saunders
Narcolepsy, a chronic and commonly diagnosed
sleep disorder, affects over a quarter of
a million Americans each year (approximately
one person in every two thousand). Characterized
by the body's inability to properly regulate
sleep, narcolepsy's most obvious symptoms
can include cataplexy (involuntary loss of
muscle control), "automatic" behaviors
(performing regular, mundane tasks by rote),
hallucinations and paralysis during sleep.
However, narcolepsy is most commonly associated
with the onset of "mini sleeps"
or "sleep attacks" during the day.
These narcoleptic episodes (often referred
to as EDS or excessive daytime sleepiness)
occur when the individual is suddenly overcome
by the urge to sleep. The resulting state
of narcolepsis can pass within a few seconds
or it can last for more than half an hour.
Relatively recent medical research identifies
narcolepsy as a genetically based sleep regulation
disorder that usually emerges during the middle
and late teenage years. However, strong evidence
also suggests that some forms of the condition
can be caused by head trauma or brain injury.
Regardless of the cause, because the characteristics
of narcolepsy can also be symptomatic of other,
similar sleep disorders, a thorough medical
evaluation (often including a variety of overnight
sleep tests) is required for a correct diagnosis.
Although scientists continue to close in on
the genes connected with the onset of narcolepsy,
treatments for narcoleptics still vary widely.
Common treatments include the use of approved
prescription drugs, such as modafinil and
selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors like
fluoxitine and sertroline, to treat the excessive
In large part however the management of narcolepsy
depends upon what appears most effective for
the individual, and because no cure exists
at this time, the available treatments primarily
address the sleep disorder's symptoms.
For most narcoleptics a combination of prescription
medications, natural sleep remedies and behavioral
strategies prove the best means of effectively
managing their narcolepsy. This pro-active
approach to dealing with the condition involves
simple lifestyle adjustments to enhance the
quality and duration of each night's sleep
(including dietary changes and the use of
regular exercise) as well as actively managed
sleep cycles that incorporate short, scheduled
naps. A variety of natural sleep remedies
can also successfully help narcoleptics manage
Herbal teas and infusions can effectively
help to induce and enhance the body's natural
sleep cycle and offer a healthful alternative
to sleeping pills. Supplementary melatonin
(the hormone produced as part of the body's
natural sleep cycle) may also help narcoleptics
enjoy a better night's sleep. Guided meditation
and relaxation, chromatherapy and aromatherapy
can also prove valuable natural enhancements
to the successful management of narcolepsy.
Copyright © 2005 Donald Saunders Help
Me To Sleep Affiliates
About the Author
Donald Saunders is the author of a number
of health related publications including:
"Help Me To Sleep - A Guide To Natural
Sleep Remedies", "Jet Lag - An Alternative
Approach", "Shift Work Insomnia"
and "The Art of Meditation - A Guide
To Meditation, Breathing and Relaxation Techniques"
For further details please visit Narcolepsy