Narcolepsy is a debilitating sleep disorder characterized by a pervasive sense of sleepiness and a tendency to fall asleep at inappropriate times. Narcolepsy is believed to be a genetically inherited malfunction of the sleep state switching mechanism. During an “attack” of narcolepsy, the body seems to be pushing itself into REM, or Dreaming sleep. The narcoleptic accordingly can experience a loss of muscle tone at the onset of an attack, and frequently reports dream imagery or dreaming while it lasts. Unlike normal dreaming, however, the narcoleptic is not easily awoken from his or her “spell.”
If you feel that you or someone you know may suffer from Narcolepsy, a visit to a sleep disorders center is in order. Narcolepsy is diagnosed by a fairly simple test routinely performed in sleep centers that involves an overnight and a daytime sleep test. The daytime test follows the night time test. Stimulant medication often is prescribed for Narcolepsy, and usually is highly effective. Over the counter drugs that contain caffeine tend not to be effective. In the interim, a narcoleptic should avoid activities—like driving or cooking—where a sudden attack might prove dangerous or deadly.