Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). If the urge is too much, the person will fall asleep for seconds or minutes. However, there are rare cases wherein the sleep lasts fro hours. It is caused by the inability of the brain to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include cataplexy, which is the loss of control over voluntary muscles, hallucinations while sleeping and moments after awakening and paralysis before and after sleeping (NINDS, 2008).
Some narcoleptic people have also been observed with microsleep episodes wherein a person behaves automatically but in an unconscious state, hypnagogic hallucinations and periodic limb movement disorder (UMMC, 2006). Currently, there is no known cure for narcolepsy but there are certain drugs that can control symptoms like EDS and cataplexy. Clinical experiments discovered that a drug called modafinil can successfully treat EDS. In 1999, the drug was later approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while certain anti-depressants have been able control cataplexy.
Aside from the drugs, treatment must otherwise include behavioral strategies. Xyrem was approved by the FDA for the treatment of narcoleptic people who experience cataplexy in 2002. The sale of the drug is strictly monitored since the use of the drug may lead other health concerns (NINDS, 2008). Studies are being spearheaded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other organizations under the National Institute of Health (NIH) in order to gather more information about the illness (NINDS, 2008).
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder wherein sleep is accompanied by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths. The pauses can last for second to minutes and sometimes comes with loud snorts and choking sounds. It is a chronic condition and usually disrupts sleep which in turn leads to poor sleep quality resulting to EDS (NHLBI, 2008). Many who suffer from this sleep disorder do not get treatment since it cannot be detected routine checkups. Many of those who suffer from the illness are not aware of their condition since it only occurs during sleep.
It is commonly the spouse or other family members that notice the symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common cases. It is manifested by the blockage of air passages when sleeping which could cause the breathing pauses and shallow breathing. Overweight people are more prone to the obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is another form of sleep apnea and is characterized when brain signals do not reach the breathing muscles. This type of sleep apnea is less common compared to obstructive sleep apnea (NHLBI, 2006).
There are no drugs that have been proven to treat sleep apnea. Usual treatments fro sleep apnea may be lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices and surgery. The type of treatment is dependent on the diagnosis. If the sleep apnea is caused by being overweight, the doctor may only prescribe losing weight (NHLBI, How is Sleep Apnea Treated? ). Insomnia Many people experience sleepless nights for different reasons but if a person has problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep and non-restorative sleep on a regular basis for no clear reason, this may already be chronic insomnia.
Insomnia affects the vigor and health of a person since sleep is associated with the strengthening of the immune system. It may also lead to fatigue and accidents (Mayo Clinic, 2007). During diagnosis, doctors may ask information pertaining to the patient’s medical history and sleep history since insomnia may be because of certain lifestyles and/or an effect of a medication that the patient is currently taking (UCSF, 2007). Common causes of insomnia are stress, anxiety and depression. Excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol may also result in insomnia as well as excessive sleep during daytime.
Changes in surroundings and sleep schedules, noise, jetlag and pain may also cause insomnia (UCSF, 2007). Treatment for insomnia starts with addressing the psychological or medical problem since treating insomnia relies on a concept of determining what factors cause the sleep disorder and eliminating those factors. Sleeping pills are only prescribed on low dosages but it is not for long-term use. Taking sleeping pills must be supervised by a doctor. Behavioral techniques may also be used such for treatment such as relaxation therapy, reconditioning and a sleep restriction program (UCSF, 2007).