Sleep attacks and dreams, symptoms of rare narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times.
The brain is unable to regulate sleeping and waking patterns normally.
This can result in excessive daytime sleepiness ie feeling very drowsy throughout the day and having difficulty concentrating and staying awake.
It can also promot sleep attacks when the sufferer falls asleep suddenly and without warning or cataplexy which is the temporary loss of muscle control resulting in weakness and possible collapse, often in response to emotions such as laughter and anger.
Sleep paralysis, a temporary inability to move or speak when waking up or falling asleep, can also occur as well as excessive dreaming and waking in the night. Dreams often come as you fall asleep (hypnogogic hallucinations) or just before or during waking (hypnopompic hallucinations).
Narcolepsy doesn’t cause serious or long-term physical health problems, but it can have a significant impact on daily life and be difficult to cope with emotionally.
Many cases of narcolepsy are caused by a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin (also known as orexin), which regulates wakefulness.
The lack of hypocretin is thought to occur because the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells that produce it or the receptors that allow it to work.
However, this doesn’t explain all cases of narcolepsy, and the exact cause of the problem is often unclear.
Narcolepsy is a fairly rare condition. It’s difficult to know exactly how many people have narcolepsy because many cases are thought to go unreported.
However, it’s estimated the condition affects at least 25,000 people in the UK.
Men and women are thought to be affected equally by narcolepsy, although some studies have suggested the condition may be more common in men.
The symptoms often begin during adolescence, although the condition is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.