Medications, Regular Exercise Can Help Combat Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a lifelong disorder marked by an inability to control sleeping and waking stages. Due to this inability to regulate the sleep cycle, people with narcolepsy may irresistibly fall asleep at any given time throughout the day. These naps usually last for a brief period, but they can be dangerous if the individual is operating a vehicle or other large machinery. Narcolepsy affects both men and women, and the disease typically presents itself during childhood or adolescence. To better understand the day-to-day nature of narcolepsy, here is a guide to the symptoms of uncontrollable sleep:

The loss of voluntary muscle movement can also happen during sleep cycles, resulting in sleep paralysis.  This decreased control over the muscles occurs during a normal sleep cycle, during the rapid eye movement phase (REM). Sleep paralysis can be a frightening experience, as it may feel like waking from a nightmare to find yourself entirely and permanently unable to move. The immediate shock is a natural response, but the NIH says sleep paralysis does not lead to permanent disability. Complete mobility typically returns almost immediately after the episode.

There is no cure for narcolepsy, but there are medications that doctors can prescribe to help. These might include stimulants to keep the person awake during the day or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which suppress REM sleep to help alleviate the symptoms of cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Experts also advise sticking to a schedule and taking naps during the day if you can. Also, avoid nicotine and alcohol, as well as get moderate, regular exercise several hours before bedtime.