Or watched the abundant YouTube offerings of narcoleptic dogs?
Narcolepsy is a real sleep disorder, usually characterized by four things:
2. Hypnogogic hallucinations
3. Sleep paralysis
4. Daytime sleepiness
Cataplexy is emotionally-triggered muscle weakness. It can be only part of the face, or body and often causes a person to collapse.
Hypnogogic hallucinations are vivid hallucinations that happen while falling asleep. They can be visual, sound, or touch hallucinations and occur because of a mix of wakefulness and dreaming during the REM cycle. As you can imagine, they can be quite frightening.
Sleep Paralysis is the inability to move or speak on the first few minutes of waking or just before sleeping. Unlike cataplexy, this isn't triggered by emotions. People often feel like they are suffocating when this occurs.
Daytime sleepiness goes beyond what normal people might have with a little sleep deprivation. People with narcolepsy will often fall asleep at inappropriate times, called "sleep attacks."
How many people have narcolepsy? For every 100,000 people, about 25-50 people have narcolepsy. It tends to show up in the teens and twenties.
What causes it? Rare brain lesions can cause it, but most cases occur because of a loss of two neurotransmitters (the signaling chemicals between brain cells): orexin-A and orexin-B. The orexins promote and stabilize wakefulness and prevent inappropriate entrance into REM sleep. There also may be hereditary factors at play. There is also a debated autoimmune theory as well (body attacking itself in areas that cause narcolepsy).
How do you diagnose it? By symptoms, and by an overnight sleep study (polysomnography) and the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT).
How do you treat it? By treating non-narcolepsy sleep disorders; using medications that help keep patients awake during the day (stimulants); and REM-suppressing medications (like Effexor, or venlafaxine).
For those who would like more info on narcolepsy, here are some resources:
And for your poor poodle with narcolepsy:
As much as narcolepsy is often used as a punchline in the media, I for one am glad I don't have it! It's a waking nightmare, if you ask me.
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