Indeed, there is a disease in which there is an irresistible desire to sleep, regardless of where the person is. This is called narcolepsy.
Of course, not all drowsiness is narcolepsy. In the life of any person, there are periods when the need for sleep raises. Scientists equate the sensations of a patient with narcolepsy to the condition of a person deprived of sleep for two days. Despite the agonizing drowsiness, narcoleptics often cannot really fall asleep at night. There are repeated attacks of sleep with this disease, no different from normal but arising in an inadequate situation.
Perhaps the internal cause of narcolepsy is in the disintegration syndrome, the untimely beginning of sleep stages, especially rapid ones. Recall that sleep is divided into phases. “Slow sleep” consists of four stages or levels. The first is the most superficial. The last is the deepest. Changes occurring during each stage or during the transition from one to another can be traced in the encephalogram.
During drowsiness, the encephalogram shows the presence of faster waves. When we fall asleep, the picture changes, as if there is calmness. With the deepening of sleep, the waves are even smoothed out and the “delta-dream” begins. An hour and a half later, dreams arise, and the encephalogram again resembles the curve of a waking person. The sleeper at this time can show the movement of the eyes under closed eyelids – this is the “fast sleep phase.”
Patients with narcolepsy fall asleep in less than 10 minutes – the phase of fast sleep begins early, but the phase of deep, delta sleep, is generally absent. That is, they sleep superficially with many nightly awakenings.
In addition to severe daytime sleepiness, the symptoms of the disease are as follows:
- cataplexy is an attack of sudden general weakness against any strong emotions, whether positive or negative, laughter, crying or amazement. The attack can develop so quickly that the patient runs the risk of falling and getting injured. Its duration is from a few seconds to several minutes. This is usually followed by falling asleep,
- dreams in reality – bright visions, like a dream. They are usually accompanied by anxiety. Visions occur either at the time of falling asleep or during the awakening period. Patients can see objects or people, hear music or voices,
- sleep paralysis is a complete immobility that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes after awakening. The person is in full consciousness, able to assess the situation, but unable to move. Sleep paralysis is more often noted in the morning but may occur at other times. With time, other symptoms may join.
It is possible to suspect the disease to be a daytime drowsiness. However, only an expert in the field of sleep medicine can perform an accurate diagnosis after carrying out diagnostic studies: polysomnography, encephalography and so on. Unfortunately, the disease cannot always be diagnosed quickly, because various sleep disorders occur frequently, so many doctors never even think of a rare disease.
It is not yet possible completely get rid of narcolepsy, but the symptomatic treatment of the disease can significantly improve the quality of life. The doctor can prescribe medications that help eliminate drowsiness during the day and improve night sleep, such as Modafinil and other medications from pharmacies. Antidepressants of various groups with psycho stimulating effect are effective means.