NarcolepsyImagine listening to a funny joke, then in the middle of laughing, your legs suddenly buckle and you are unable to move for the next several minutes. Maybe you are in class, but you are incredibly drowsy and finally just can't stay awake even though you had plenty of sleep the night before. These are examples of what people with narcolepsy experience.
People with narcolepsy have trouble staying awake; they often feel drowsy and fall asleep, even in the middle of the day, sometime in the middle of activities that produce strong emotions. It is thought that narcolepsy occurs when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs while people are awake. Although the cause of narcolepsy is unknown, it does occasionally run in families. If one person in a family has the disorder, another relative may be susceptible to developing it if certain environmental triggers occur.
TreatmentMedications such as stimulants (amphetamines, Ritalin) that increase alertness are often used to treat narcolepsy. However, stimulants may cause side effects including headaches, nervousness, and mood changes. Antidepressant medication is also used to treat narcolepsy. A new drug called Provigil was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in late 1998. Provigil promotes wakefulness and appears to have fewer side effects than stimulants such as amphetamines.
In the Sleep Clinic at Stanford University, Doberman dogs that have narcolepsy are bred. Work with these animals has led to the discovery of the gene for narcolepsy.
||Narcolepsy was first described in the 1880s by French physician Jean-Baptiste Edouard Gelineau.|
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By Ellen Kuwana, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer