Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder in which the individual has an uncontrollable desire to fall asleep. Narcolepsy patients sleep as much as a normal person, the only difference is they are powerless to control their sleep timings. Recent research indicates that narcolepsy may be caused by the deficient production of a chemical called 'hypocretin' in the brain.
These sleep attacks occur as brief episodes and may take place even in the most stimulating circumstances, like while driving or talking to a person. Research has shown that narcoleptics are more accident-prone and may also have some difficulty with interpersonal relationships.
In addition to excessive sleepiness the person can suffer from abnormal REM sleep phenomenon like:
It is estimated to be the second leading cause for daytime sleepiness after obstructive sleep apnea.
Narcolepsy-cataplexy was first reported by
Westphal (1877) and Fisher (1878). They showed the association of muscle
weakness triggered by excitement and sleepiness. The original description of
the condition reads as follows: In the case of narcoleptic individuals the brain
is not able to regulate the smooth transition of the sleep wake cycles,
resulting in the patients directly entering REM sleep without experiencing NREM
sleep. Researchers have discovered abnormalities in parts of the brain involved
in regulating REM sleep.The majority of narcoleptic patients are still
undiagnosed, and diagnosis often occurs after many years of struggle. One
recent study estimated the mean number of years between the onset of symptoms
and the correct diagnosis to be 14 years. As the symptoms of narcolepsy usually
appear during adolescence, most narcoleptic patients are diagnosed too late to
prevent the impact of the disease on their personal and professional
|"I propose to give the name of narcolepsy (from "narco"
somnolence and "lepsy" seized by) to a rare neurosis or at least
little known until now, characterized by a mandatory need to sleep, sudden and
of short duration, that recurs at more or less close intervals." |