In both narcolepsy and tiredness, the person feels sleepy. Thus, to evaluate whether the person is actually tired or he is suffering from narcolepsy, various techniques are available.
Do I Have Narcolepsy Or Am I Just Tired?
Narcolepsy and tiredness have one common symptom. In both cases, the patient feels sleepy. Thus, it is important to know whether you are suffering from narcolepsy or you may just be tired if you frequently experience day time sleep. You should visit your doctor to avoid any concern. With a proper diagnosis, the doctor may be able to find whether it is actually narcolepsy or your body is demanding rest. Various techniques are used to diagnose narcolepsy. Some of the generally used techniques are:
Family History: Although most cases of narcolepsy are sporadic i.e. patients with narcolepsy do not have any close relative suffering from this condition. However, in almost 10% of the cases, patients with narcolepsy along with muscle weakness have close relatives suffering from this condition1.
Actigraphy: Sleep records are generated for the patient who complains of excessive day time sleep. The patient is asked to make a diary and note the sleep patterns2. In addition to this, the patient is also asked to wear the bracelet that measures the sleeping patterns, sleeping time and wake up time.
Polysomnography: Polysomnography is the method of sleep analysis at a particular center. In this technique, the patient has to stay overnight at the center for sleep pattern analysis3. Various sensors are attached to the body of the patient to carry out the tests. The other instruments attached to the patients are electroencephalogram, electromyogram, and electrooculogram and pulse oximeter.
Measuring Hypocretin (Orexin) Levels: A chemical called hypocretin or orexin is present in the cerebrospinal fluid. Patient with narcolepsy has generally a low level of hypocretin. This diagnostic technique is being frequently used by the physicians while diagnosing narcolepsy. A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid is taken through a method called lumbar puncture3 and the amount of chemical is measured.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test: This technique is also known as nap study. It is used to analyze the daytime sleepiness in the patient4. It is used to measure the amount of time required to sleep in the daytime. The patient is advised to lie on the bed in a dark room and the time to asleep is noted. On average, the person suffering from narcolepsy fall sleep in three minutes.
Epworth Sleepiness Scale: This diagnostic technique is in the form of a questionnaire. It is used to evaluate the amount of time required to fall asleep while doing other activities. You would be required to answer the questions such as in what condition you have more likelihood to fall asleep such as while reading or traveling. Normal scores are in between 0 to 10 while scores above 10 indicate a problem5.
Narcolepsy is a neurological abnormality characterized by abnormal alley and wake cycle. Patient of narcolepsy has excessive and involuntary day time sleep. The patient requires almost 10-20 minutes of sleep every 3-4 hours. If not managed properly through medications, the patient is incapable of performing a task requiring long term continuous concentration. The condition equally affects both the gender and the symptoms normally start either in childhood or adolescent although the condition may develop at any age1. The condition may be with or without muscle weakness. Narcolepsy with muscle weakness is known as type 1 narcolepsy while without muscle weakness is termed as type II narcolepsy. Causative agents for this condition include autoimmune disorders, brain injury or family history1.
The diagnosis of narcolepsy is done though sleep evaluation. These techniques help differentiate between sleep due to tiredness and narcolepsy. The techniques used are multiple Sleep latency tests, Epworth sleepiness scale, Measuring hypocretin (orexin) levels, Family history, Polysomnography, and Actigraphy.
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