Narcolepsy is a type of sleep disorder that is characterized by uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep, or “sleep attacks.” These sleep attacks can be life-threatening. For example, if you’re driving when you fall asleep, you could end up in the ER of the local hospital with serious injuries. If you’re suffering from symptoms of narcolepsy, it’s important to visit your community hospital. Your hospital may offer a sleep center that can diagnose your condition and provide treatment options.
When you arrive at your community hospital, tell the sleep specialist about all of your symptoms. Typically, people with narcolepsy experience overwhelming sleepiness during the day. The sleep attacks may last as long as 30 minutes and they may occur at any point during the day. You may have noticed that you are partially or completely paralyzed at the beginning or end of the sleep attack. People with narcolepsy may also suffer from cataplexy, which is the sudden loss of muscle strength and tone. Other possible symptoms can include blurry vision, memory problems, and hallucinations.
Sometimes, a diagnosis of narcolepsy only requires a review of your symptoms and medical history. Otherwise, a physician at your local hospital may request certain tests, such as polysomnogram tests, commonly known as sleep studies. You might also be asked to take a multiple sleep latency test, which is usually performed the day after having a sleep study at the hospital.
Although there is no cure yet for narcolepsy, the condition may be managed through lifestyle modifications and medications. A physician might prescribe drugs such as sodium oxybate or modafinil for narcolepsy. These may help reduce the frequency of your sleep attacks. If you suffer from cataplexy, your physician may prescribe an antidepressant. Lifestyle changes can also help, such as maintaining a consistent schedule for sleeping and daytime napping.
Do you suspect you could have narcolepsy or another type of sleep disorder? Consider scheduling a sleep study at the Diagnostic Sleep Center at Memorial Hospital of Tampa. South Tampa residents can reach our community hospital by calling (813) 873-6400.