Medical and Alternative Treatments for Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a permitting sleep disorder that is distinguished by sudden sleep attacks or extreme drowsiness during the daytime. People who are suffering from narcolepsy often struggle to stay awake for longer periods despite of the circumstances. This can also cause some serious disruptions in the daily life and its associated chores.

There is no cure for Narcolepsy. With certain alterations and management in lifestyle as well as medication, the symptoms can be easily put down. Necessary support from family, friends, teachers as well as employers can help in coping with the disorder. With all these options, the symptoms can be managed easily.

Medications for Narcolepsy

  • Stimulants: Medications that help in stimulating the nervous system are considered as a primary treatment for the patients suffering from narcolepsy. Physicians often adopt drugs like modafinil (Provigil) or armodafinil (Nuvigil) as they are less addictive when compared to other stimulants. The side effects are rarely observed, nevertheless, modafinil may cause dry mouth, headache or nausea.
  • Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, others) and other amphetamines may be used for treating the disorder in some patients. All these medications are effective and may cause side effects as well. This may include addiction, heart palpitations and nervousness as well.
  • SSRIs or SNRIs: These medications are often prescribed by doctors for suppressing REM sleep and alleviating the symptoms of sleep paralysis, cataplexy and hypnagogic hallucinations. The medications may also involve venlafaxine (Effexor XR) and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, others). Digestive problems and sexual dysfunction might be the associated side effects.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Clomipramine (Anafranil), protriptyline (Vivactil) and imipramine (Tofranil) have proven to be effective in treating cataplexy. However, many patients have reported certain side effects like lightheadedness and dry mouth.
  • Sodium Oxybate (Xyrem): Cataplexy can be treated effectively using this medication. Sleep during the nighttime is poor in case of narcolepsy patients and sodium oxybate helps in improving it. When taken in high doses, it may also help in controlling sleep during the daytime. The dose should be taken twice, once during the day and the other at night. Xyrem may have grave side effects like nausea, worsened sleep walking and bed-wetting as well. Consuming sodium oxybate in combination with other narcotic pain relievers, drugs and alcohol can cause breathing problems, which may result in coma as well as death.

Dietary Changes for Treating Narcolepsy

Physicians have suggested that there is no specific diet involved in treating narcolepsy, but many patients observed certain changes by limiting the consumption of certain foods. Following a diet that is free of toxins and consuming healthy foods in defining amounts can help in treating the disease effectively. Following recommendations might come handy:

  • Add a lot of low-fat cleansing foods like sea veggies and green, leafy vegetables to your daily diet.
  • Consume grains or foods that are high in Vitamin B Complex content, which include whole grains, brown rice, brewer’s yeast, and oats.
  • High protein foods help in increasing the mind alertness and they should be included in the midday meal. Such foods include soy, turkey, meat, chicken, nuts and seeds.
  • Foods like vegetables, fruits, pasta, pulses and whole grains are rich in complex carbs. They should be included in the diet at the end of the body. They encourage sleepiness and calm the body as well as the mind.
  • Consume foods that have a high content of amino acids. Such foods include oats, eggs, wheat germ and poultry.

Herbal Remedies for Narcolepsy

  • Country Mallow: Country mallow is an ayurvedic herb that helps the sufferers of narcolepsy in staying awake. This herb might cause an increase in the blood pressure; therefore, people with cardiovascular disorders should avoid its consumption. A concoction of country mallow can be prepared by boiling the herb in water and can be readily consumed after cooling.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba nurtures the nervous system in two ways: it improves the circulation to the brain and protects the cells with its antioxidant properties. All these things will help in treating the condition of narcolepsy. Terpenoids and flavonoids are the active constituents in ginkgo leave and one must not take it before any surgical procedure or if he or she is suffering from a bleeding disorder.
  • St. John’s Wort: Narcolepsy is often treated using an herb called as St John’s wort. This remedy is used because of its significant action in the treatment of nervous system. This herb may help in gaining a mental stability and improve the quality of sleep by calming the nerves. Some nutritionists also suggest drinking this wort as a concoction twice a day to get rid of the disturbing symptoms.
  • Gotu Kola: Gotu kola is an herb that usually grows in the subtropical climates and is used for treating the vein support. It strengthens the connective tissues which makes the veins stronger and improves the flow of blood in an efficient way. When this happens, the brain will get more nutrients as well as oxygen that may help in treating narcolepsy. The cells of the nervous system might also be protected due to the antioxidant effect of this herb. The side effects may involve light skin rash after consuming gotu kola.

Herbal Remedies for Narcolepsy

Naturopathy for Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy and various sleep disorders can be treated using naturopathy. This often involves following a healthy lifestyle with light exercises, a complete diet full of minerals and vitamins as well as facilitating positive thinking. This may help in combating the severity of narcolepsy symptoms.

Chiropractic Treatment for Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy relates to various sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia that are related to the nervous system. As mentioned earlier, the cure for narcolepsy is not determined yet the central nervous system can be manipulated for its proper alignment. This helps in reducing the episodes that are associated with narcolepsy.

Prolonged pain from physical illness can emerge from the spinal cord and affect the brain for causing sleeping disorders. Via chiropractic adjustments, various causes of poor sleep like neck pain, headaches, back pain and stress can be significantly treated.

Lifestyle Modifications for Narcolepsy

Making certain modifications in the lifestyle is extremely important if you are looking to manage the narcoleptic symptoms. These steps may be beneficial:

  • Stick to the rules. Fix the right time for sleeping every single day and wake up on time. Follow the schedule on weekends as well.
  • A short nap during the day can help grant you a refreshment after increased stress levels. Some may need a nap for a long time for reducing sleepiness.
  • Exercise regularly for at least for a few hours so that you have an energetic morning and sleep well at night without any interruptions.

Coping and Self Help Strategies for Narcolepsy

  • Keep a track of your sleep periods. A regular and brief nap can help in getting rid of sleepiness during the daytime. Get a sound and deep sleep for eight hours or so and follow it regularly. A planned nap can help you in staying fresh throughout the day.
  • Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol: These things interfere with your sleep when you are in need of it.
  • Avoid consuming drugs that cause drowsiness: Certain cold and allergy medications can cause drowsiness and it has to be avoided.
  • Include your employees, friends or co-workers so that they can help you in sticking to the schedule and motivate you as well.
  • Record all the paramount conversations via a tape recorder in case you fall asleep.
  • Segregate your work and break them into smaller tasks so that it becomes easier for you to maintain.
  • Exercise can stimulate your body to stay energetic throughout the day and fall asleep at the right time without any interruption.
  • Never indulge in activities that can be ghastly in case you get sleep attack. Do not climb ladders or drive a vehicle when you are aware of the occurrence of such episodes. Try taking a nap to save yourself from accidents due to sudden sleep attacks.
  • A medical alert bracelet should be worn as it will alert others when you fall asleep or are unable to move for a long time.
  • Follow a healthy diet. Include fruits, vegetables, protein rich foods and low fat dairy products that will keep you stimulated. Avoid eating a heavy meal prior to any important activity.
  • Learn to relax and deal with emotions. The symptoms of narcolepsy symptoms can result due to emotional imbalances, so it is advisable to practice various breathing exercises.

Counseling and Support Groups

It is commonly observed that those who are suffering from narcolepsy often show signs of depression. This also involved sleep attacks and cataplexy, which can cause embarrassment and havoc in the normal lifestyle. The associated episodes can be frightening at times, which may eventually lead to depression. Some people become withdrawn or reclusive with a fear of abrupt collapse or falling asleep all of a sudden. You can easily combat with all such issues by relying on a counselor, a support group or a psychologist as well.

You may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but when you are in a group of people who suffer from the same disorder, the feeling of isolation will be eliminated. It can also teach you to cope with the narcolepsy symptoms and situations.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 16, 2019

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