Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder manifesting itself in irresistible sleepiness during daytime accompanied with catalepsy (sudden loss of muscular tone), hallucination and sleep paralysis. The disease has negative impact on day to day life of the affected person. The exact etiological factor still remains uncertain, but it is believed to occur due to deficiency of hypocretin a chemical in brain which plays a role in regulating sleep wake cycle.
Narcolepsy usually develops in second or third decade of life, however, it may also start early during childhood. Currently narcolepsy has no curative treatment. Hence management is focused on alleviating the symptoms with medication and life style modification. Natural remedies are effective in dealing with the symptoms as they have least number of side effects.
What Are The Causes Of Narcolepsy?
The exact cause of narcolepsy is not known. However, it is believed to be caused due to loss of certain chemical in the brain called hypocretin. This chemical is produced by brain cells located in a particular part of brain known as hypothalamus. Hypocretin is believed to be useful in regulating sleep and wake cycle.
When there is reduced amount of hypocretin, person finds it difficult to stay awake. The exact reason for loss of hypocretin is not exactly understood but it is suspected to be caused due to an autoimmune reaction. Narcolepsy is usually observed during second and third decade of life. However, sometimes younger children are also affected.
Signs And Symptoms Of Narcolepsy
The symptoms as mentioned earlier begin in the second and third decade of life. In the beginning the symptoms start worsening, but gradually they become stable and chronic for life time. Narcolepsy is characterized with tetrad of symptoms which include:
- Excessive sleepiness in daytime: Patient suffering from narcolepsy falls asleep anywhere and at any time spontaneously. This overwhelming sleepiness may occur even when a person is talking or while working or while even driving. The person may sleep for few minutes or for an hour. When he wakes up he is refreshed but soon tends to fall asleep. Excessive spontaneous sleepiness eventually affects day to day life of a person suffering from narcolepsy.
- Catalepsy (sudden loss of muscular tone): There is sudden decrease in muscle tone. It is often triggered in response to any type of emotions such as laughing, anger, joy, surprise etc. Patient may have slurred speech if the speech muscles lose tone. Reduced muscle tone can be in particular group of muscle or it may be generalized.
- Hallucination: Person with narcolepsy may experience hallucination at the onset of sleep. He may also experience while awakening from sleep. Hallucination may be auditory or visual.
- Sleep paralysis: Person suffering from narcolepsy often feels inability to move or speak just before he sleeps or at the time he awakes from sleep. Although the episode lasts for few minutes or seconds, it may be extremely frightening experience.
Along with the classical symptoms, person may also describe other symptoms such as insomnia, blurry vision, severe tiredness, double vision, difficulty in concentrating on concentration and memory. Narcolepsy often is co-morbid with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
Natural Remedies For Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder with no cure at present. Hence the focus of treatment is to alleviate symptoms so that person can live his day to day life normally. Medication as well as lifestyle changes are the most effective treatment in dealing with narcolepsy. There are several stimulant medicines that will help to relieve the symptoms of narcolepsy. However, these conventional medications may have side effects.
There are several home remedies that will be effective in relieving the symptoms with minimal side effects. Lifestyle changes include performing regular exercise, taking naps during daytime, maintaining strict time to sleep and wake up in the morning. Besides patient must avoid alcohol and quit smoking. These natural home remedies include:
- Gotu Kola: Is an excellent natural remedy for narcolepsy. It has properties that protect the brain cells from degeneration. The antioxidant present in it helps to increase blood flow to the brain thus increasing oxygen level in the brain cells.
- Ginko Biloba: Ginko biloba needs special mention because it has great affinity to improve neurological problems which also include narcolepsy. It improves blood flow to the brain and nourishes brain cells.
- John’s Wort: It has stimulating properties which help the slowdown of the nervous system. At the same time it has calming effect on mind which is useful to improve quick emotional changes.
- Country Mallow: It is a stimulating herb for those suffering from narcolepsy. However, it must not be consumed by people suffering from cardiac ailment or high blood pressure.