Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder in which the brain has problems regulating the sleep/wake cycles. People with narcolepsy have trouble staying awake during the day. They experience “attacks” of sleep, which means they can fall asleep without warning, even while performing a task. Although narcolepsy is incurable, the sleep attacks and other serious symptoms of this sleep disorder are treatable. With the right treatment, people with narcolepsy can continue to lead productive lives.
There are a number of medications that can manage the symptoms of narcolepsy. It may take some trial and error to find the right medication and dosage for any given patient. Generally, sleep medicine specialists start by prescribing a central nervous system stimulant, which can help patients stay awake during the day. Other possibilities include:
Sleep medicine doctors take a holistic approach toward managing narcolepsy. Patients often need to make adjustments to their schedules, routines, and daily habits in order to get the symptoms under control. Behavioral sleep medicine includes establishing a regular sleep schedule. It’s important for patients to get to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on the weekends. It’s also helpful to schedule frequent naps during the day. Often, a 20-minute nap is all that’s needed to restore wakefulness for the next few hours. Narcolepsy patients can also try avoiding alcohol and nicotine, avoiding caffeine in the evening, exercising every day, and following good sleep hygiene practices.
One of the major concerns with narcolepsy is the increased potential for auto accidents. The risk of a car crash due to a sleep attack is greatly lowered when the patient is taking medications as prescribed. However, it’s still important for patients to exercise caution. Public transportation may be a safer option than driving. Patients should speak with their sleep medicine doctors before planning a long road trip.
Sleep Dynamics provides comprehensive treatment for patients with narcolepsy in central New Jersey. Call our office today at (848) 217-0240 to request an appointment. Our sleep medicine physicians can help you improve your quality of life and get your symptoms under control.