Narcolepsy, a chronic sleeping disorder, is also known as dyssomnia. It is marked by EDS or ‘excessive daytime sleepiness’ without warning. A narcoleptic individual tends to fall asleep even at inapt time, like while at school or in office, and experiences excessive fatigue throughout the day. The term ‘Narcolepsy’ has been derived from the French word ‘narcolepsie’, coined by the renowned French physician Jean-Baptiste-Édouard Gélineau.
Narcolepsy is an autoimmune disorder caused due to genetic mutations in the HLA genes of Chromosome 6 and is characterized by unusual daytime sleep patterns and a disturbed nocturnal sleep. However, this genetic condition should not be confused with ‘insomnia’ or lack of sleep.
While a normal individual does not go into REM sleep at least for ninety minutes, narcoleptics have a propensity to transit suddenly and unexpectedly from a waking state into REM sleep within ten minutes, with little or no intervening non-REM sleep. Some of the other widespread symptoms of narcolepsy are as follows:
- Abrupt weakness of muscles or cataplexy triggered by strong emotions; involves slackening of facial muscles and dropping of head or jaw in some cases
- Confused and slurred speech.
- Impaired or blurred vision
- Paralysis and stiff muscles in rare cases.
Thus, narcolepsy, a neurological disorder of sleep patterns, is caused due to genetic variations combined with unfavorable environmental factors, such as viruses. Although it has been associated with many genetic variations, it is not found to be related with any kind of mental disorder or psychological problem. As narcoleptics tend to fall asleep anywhere at inappropriate timings, they become a safety hazard to themselves. This neurological disorder affects children, elderly, young men, and women alike. The symptoms become apparent only during adolescence and are often confused with seizure disorders, depression, lack of sleep, and laziness.
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