Narcolepsy is classified as a chronic sleep disorder and is considered a chronic neurological disorder.Sleep Wave Narcolepsy is caused by the inability of an individual's brain to regulate sleep-wake cycles properly. An individual suffering with narcolepsy experiences daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable bouts of falling asleep during the day. Individuals suffering from narcolepsy are simply unable to stay awake for long periods of time and fall asleep at an inappropriate place or time sometimes without warning. Individuals with narcolepsy fall asleep while they are working, cooking, or driving.
Narcolepsy is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as depression, epilepsy, or a side effect of a medication. This disease usually occurs between the ages of 15 and 25, and is more common in men than women. Two specialized tests known as polysomnogram (PSG) and multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) can now diagnose this disorder. Both of these tests are performed at a sleep clinic.
The overwhelming symptoms of this disease are excessive sleepiness and abnormal REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. However, there are several other severe symptoms that accompany this disease.
A prevalent symptom of narcolepsy is cataplexy. Cataplexy is a sudden, temporary loss of muscle tone which leads to a weak feeling and loss of voluntary muscle control. Episodes of cataplexy seem to be triggered by intense emotions such as shock, surprise, laughter, or anger. Typically during a cataplexy attack the individual's knee buckles, the head may drop to one side, or the jaw may become slack. Cataplexy may last a few seconds or it may last up to 30 minutes. The muscles of the eyes are never affected during a cataplexy attack the individual is completely awake and likely to recall the entire event.