Narcolepsy is a disease characterized by malfunctions in paradoxical, that is, rapid sleep. Manifestation of narcolepsy increased drowsiness and unforeseen "attacks" of sleep. In addition, this ailment is characterized by daytime “attacks” of irresistible drowsiness, bouts of sharp loss of muscle tone when awake, a ragged sleep, when falling asleep by the occurrence of hypnagogic and upon awakening hypnapompic hallucinations. Sometimes transient physical paralysis can occur right after waking up. Often the described condition appears in young males. According to separate assumptions, narcolepsy has a hereditary nature in conjunction with a provocative factor from the outside (viral infection).
Until recently, the etiological factor of the violation in question has been poorly studied. Scholars have proposed many hypotheses and put forward various concepts. And only by the end of the 20th century, they were able to establish the likely factor affecting the formation and further progression of the syndrome in question.
Narcolepsy, what is it? According to the research of specialists, narcolepsy originates from a disturbance in the metabolic processes occurring in the brain. These disorders lead to a deficient synthesis of orexin neuropeptide, which regulates the change of wakefulness by sleep. As a result of this person, attacks of the strongest desire to sleep are pursued.
The human brain is a complex "mechanism". Even Pavlov proved that in the human brain there are deep structures responsible for dreams. It also has neurotransmitters that make it easy for impulses to travel along neurons. During normal functioning of the nervous system, these substances are responsible for the individuals in the waking state. When they are deficient, excitement impulses do not reach the neurons and the subject falls asleep.
Thus, the disease in question narcolepsy originates due to the deficiency of the neurotransmitter Orexin. Lack of production can be caused by the following states:
- genetic predisposition;
- hormonal disruptions during pregnancy or during lactation;
- traumatic brain damage;
- excessive overwork and severe nervous tension;
- psychological trauma;
- Infectious processes that enter the brain.
These factors cause impaired orexin production, which gives rise to paradoxical sleep disorder syndrome.
According to a different concept, the disease narcolepsy can have an autoimmune cause. This is confirmed by the presence of abnormal T-lymphocytes, which are absent in healthy subjects. Often, narcolepsy occurs after vaccination.
Studies of dreams through computer complexes have shown that in persons suffering from the violation described, there is a premature onset of REM sleep.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
The main clinical manifestations of narcolepsy is considered to be an overwhelming craving for sleep, manifested by a sudden onset of drowsiness (hypnolepsy). Patients describe such conditions as severe, unquenchable drowsiness, which inevitably leads to falling asleep, regardless of the location of the patient. Frequently described seizures occur when performing monotonous movements in a monotonous setting (for example, when reading, listening to lectures). Even in healthy people, under such circumstances, bouts of drowsiness may appear, however, patients suffering from narcolepsy also have “attack” of sleep in conditions of intense activity, for example, while driving a car, while eating.
The frequency of seizures of hypnolepsia is characterized by significant fluctuations. Their duration can vary from a couple of minutes to 3 hours. At the same time, it is quite easy to wake up an individual who is in a narcoleptic sleep, as if he is in a normal sleep. As a rule, after such a dream, patients feel rested and fully awake, but literally after a couple of minutes the attack can be repeated. Over time, the subjects suffering from the described disorder, adapt to their illness, therefore, having experienced a characteristic drowsiness, they manage to find a more or less acceptable place to sleep.
In addition to bouts of drowsiness that occur during the day, the ailment described also manifests itself as a disturbance of night dreams.
Symptoms of narcolepsy can be the following: constant interruption of dreams at night, vivid dreams, insomnia, feeling of lack of sleep after waking up in the morning. Poor sleep at night gives rise to a decrease in efficiency and ability to focus, provokes the appearance of drowsiness during the day and irritability, contributes to increased interpersonal confrontations, the emergence of depressive states, chronic fatigue syndrome.
When falling asleep or before awakening, individuals suffering from the described disorder may observe hypnagogic phenomena, such as: vivid visions, hallucinations, often of a negative nature. These phenomena are similar to dreams occurring during the fast sleep phase. In children, these phenomena are considered normal, in healthy adults, they are quite rare.
Approximately in the fourth part of narcoleptics there is a sleepy paralysis, concluded in the muscular weakness of a temporary nature, which prevents the performance of voluntary actions. Such paralysis, as a rule, occurs during sleep or upon awakening. Most patients complain that during the described condition they have a strong fear. At the same time, muscular hypotonia during sleep paralysis resembles the position of skeletal muscles during REM sleep.
Narcolepsy and cataplexy, what is it? In addition, approximately 75% of narcoleptics show the phenomenon of cataplexy, a short-term paroxysmal loss of muscle tone, which leads to the fall of the individual against the background of the preservation of consciousness. Typically, this symptom provokes a sudden violent emotional response from the patient.
Thus, the typical signs of narcolepsy are falling asleep "in motion" (that is, the subject falls asleep without cause) and severe involuntary muscle weakness.
There are 4 varieties of the disease described. The primary form of this disorder is a classic variation of narcolepsy, occurring with daytime attacks of hypersomnia, cataplexy, hallucinations and sleepy paralysis.
The secondary form is considered a rarer variety. It occurs due to brain damage, brain tumor processes, multiple sclerosis, infectious lesions of brain structures.
The paroxysmal form of the disease described is associated with epilepsy. Narcoleptic paroxysmal attack is a symptom that occurs during epipadia. It consists in sudden falling asleep and falling.
Narcolepsy without cataplexy is also a rare variation of the disease. It is characterized by two variants of percolation. The first is that there is no cataplexy, but there are episodes of REM sleep, detected by means of diagnostic tests, the second is cataplexy and REM sleep episodes are absent.