Narcolepsy is a rare neurological disorder that causes people to repeatedly fall asleep in the daytime. Narcolepsy usually starts in people between the ages of 15 and 30. People with narcolepsy often are overwhelmed by sleepiness in the daytime, regardless of how much sleep they had the night before. What's more, they can't control the daytime sleep episodes. Another strange symptom is cataplexy, which is a sudden but brief attack of muscle weakness related to a strong emotional response like fear or laughter. People with narcolepsy can also experience brief episodes of sleep paralysis when falling asleep (hypnagogic) or waking up (hypnopompic). Even stranger, vivid visual or auditory hallucinations can also occur during hypnagogic or hypnopompic states. Additionally, troubled or fitful nighttime sleep, frequent awakenings and nightmares also are symptoms associated with the disorder.
People with narcolepsy might at one point or another suddenly fall asleep right in the middle of another activity, but there are treatments available to help control these symptoms. Furthermore, symptoms of narcolepsy are not limited to simply falling asleep suddenly; narcolepsy can result in mere sleepiness or muscle weakness. Although there is no known cure, several medications have been successful in managing narcolepsy. Stimulants like Ritalin, Dexedrine or Cylert can help improve alertness. Antidepressants such as imipramine or Prozac can help with more severe symptoms like hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Regular exercise, limiting caffeine and planned naps can help ease excessive daytime sleeping and trouble sleeping at night.
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