For most people, sleep is part of the routine: they fall asleep and wake up at a certain time. But for some, the desire to sleep is something sudden. Sleep does not sneak up on them, but literally unexpectedly falls on them with an avalanche of sudden and insurmountable fatigue at any moment of the day, more often right after dinner, turning off control over muscle tone, at the moment when consciousness is working. By evening, drowsiness is often less than in the daytime.
In such cases, we are talking about a disease called “essential narcolepsy” or “Gelinot’s disease.” This pathology is burdensome for the patient himself, since sleep can take him by surprise at the most inopportune moment. But, in addition, it poses a threat to others if a person with narcolepsy drives a car, performs any work in which the life of others depends on his reaction and control, etc.
Zhelino’s disease causes problems with memorization, concentration of attention, creating great interference with the patient’s daily activities.
Causes of the disease
This pathology affects both females and males, but men are somewhat more common. Narcolepsy usually manifests at a young age, between 10 and 25 years of age. According to medical statistics, it occurs on our planet in one out of two thousand people.
Previously, the development of narcolepsy was attributed entirely to heredity. Today, doctors believe that the disease may have other causes:
infectious pathologies of the brain;
disorders in the immune system.
Modern medical science knows why Gelino’s disease occurs. As authoritative scientific studies have shown, the development of narcolepsy is based on a deficiency of orexins types A and B. These are neurotransmitters that are produced by neurons in the hypothalamus. They help the body stay awake. In patients with neurolepsy, a decrease in the number of neurons responsible for the synthesis of orexins is recorded.
Diagnosis of sleep disorders
Narcolepsy is not always easy to recognize and it can sometimes take more than 10 years to get a proper diagnosis.
It is not easy to distinguish Gelino’s disease from epilepsy and some psycho-emotional disorders. Therefore, differential diagnosis should be based on objective data from polysomnography and the sleep pattern test or its multiple latencies (MSLT), which differ in narcolepsy, epileptic brain activity, etc.
Narcoleptics have unique sleep cycles. They can enter deep sleep immediately after falling asleep, while it takes about 90 minutes for most people. Therefore, they see vivid dreams, barely having time to close their eyelids, even if the dream occurs during the day and lasts only a few minutes.
By some estimates, up to 50% of people with narcolepsy are unaware that they are a victim of the disease. Therefore, it is very important that each person has information about the main symptoms of this pathology.
Loss of control of muscle tone without impairment of consciousness and other symptoms
Learn about the five main signs of narcolepsy. If a person has at least one of them, it is necessary to tell a specialist about it.
1. Uncontrollable desire to sleep, often at the wrong time
This is called excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). A person with this symptom may feel constantly tired. It is difficult for him to stay awake and keep working during the day. He has unintentional sleep lapses.
All people with narcolepsy have excessive daytime sleepiness, but they may not describe it in the same way. Some may report:
sudden changes in mood.
2. Sharp loss of muscle tone
This phenomenon is called “cataplexy”. A sharp loss of muscle tone can cause a person’s head to fall, face to droop, jaw to weaken, or knees to buckle sharply, while consciousness is preserved. A person is aware of what is happening, but cannot resist it. A decrease in muscle tone can completely cover the entire body and lead to a fall.
At the time of the attack, the following symptoms are observed:
decreased tendon reflexes;
slow heart rate;
redness or blanching of the skin;
when the tone of the neck muscles is lost, breathing becomes difficult.
Not all patients with narcolepsy have cataplexy. But a sharp loss of muscle tone without loss of consciousness can be a sign of Gelino’s disease.
3. Poor quality sleep at night or insomnia
It is quite normal to wake up at night, from time to time. However, when a person has a sleep disorder associated with narcolepsy, it means that they often fall asleep quickly but then wake up constantly throughout the night.
You should tell your doctor about this, because inadequate sleep can cause many health problems.
4. Feeling unable to move or speak when falling asleep or waking up
This phenomenon is called sleep paralysis. It occurs when a person falls asleep or wakes up, often before or after a long night’s rest. The body briefly paralyzes, a person is only able to move his eyeballs and blink. Sometimes it is impossible not only to utter a word or move the fingers, but also to breathe deeply, so the patient, quite naturally, experiences a strong feeling of fear.
5. Vivid, often frightening dreams upon falling asleep and waking up
In scientific language, they are called “hypnagogic hallucinations.” Survivors often describe their dreams as nightmares or vivid fairy tale experiences that seem real. Under the influence of a hypnagogic hallucination, being on the threshold of sleep-wakefulness, a person is able to hear sounds or words, have unwanted visions.
Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by hypnagogic hallucinations.