Sleep, one of the most valued thing in life, which most of us take for granted. But there do exist some people for whom getting a good nights sleep is a dream.
How narcoleptics live
There is a disorder called Narcolepsy, in which the ability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle is disturbed. These people do fall asleep, but the quality of sleep is not so good, such that they get up all groggy and never fresh like ordinary people. This leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, so much so that they can literally fall asleep in the midst of activity like writing, driving, etc. But they continue that particular action even in their sleep and have no memory of it when they wake up. The boundary between sleep and wakefulness is blurred. They are always in a sleep-deprived state.
There is a tetrad of symptoms- hallucinations, sleep paralysis, cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep paralysis is an inability to speak or move immediately after waking up. That can be scary, but it doesn’t last for that long. Cataplexy means a sudden loss of muscle tone-knee buckling which can lead to the person collapsing on the ground. Consciousness is not lost in the entire episode.
Causes of Narcolepsy
The cause of narcolepsy remains unknown. There is a neuropeptide called as orexin, produced by neurons (brain cells), which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Loss of these particular neurons results in narcolepsy.
As the cause of not known, a full recovery is not possible. Drugs which stimulate the brain cells can be used as a part of therapy. Lifestyle changes are a must.
Read also: Ondine’s curse – you sleep, and you stop breathing
One sleepless night takes a big toll on normal people. It is difficult to imagine what narcoleptics must be going through.