Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that affects the control of one’s sleep and wakefulness. People with this disorder experience drowsiness attacks during the day i.e. excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and fragmented night sleep. Generally speaking, different people can experience different ranges of severity of narcolepsy. There are those who may have severe narcolepsy while others experience mild narcolepsy. The most susceptible people to this disorder are those of ages between ten and thirty. Depending on when the symptoms start to show, with age, they usually worsen, resulting in disrupted day-to-day activities for the affected individual. Narcolepsy is also referred to as hypnolepsy, Gelineau’s syndrome, narcoleptic syndrome or paroxysmal sleep.(1) (2)
Does Narcolepsy Cause Memory Loss?
There is no exact known cause of narcolepsy but there is increasing evidence of it being an autoimmune disorder that is inherited. Narcolepsy being an autoimmune disorder means the immune system is destroying healthy tissues or cells, and in this case, specific healthy brain cells. The affected brain cells produce a peptide known as hypocretin, which is a chemical the brain requires to stay awake. The hypocretin is also a neurotransmitter which sends signals that impacts our sleepiness or wakefulness by acting on different groups of neurons or nerve cells in the brain.(1)
In a study conducted to determine whether memory impairment exists in narcolepsy-cataplexy. That is when muscle weakness is experienced, it was determined that there is no true organic memory deficit. However, individuals may suffer from subjective memory loss due to episodes of drowsiness. A patient living with narcolepsy for almost 24 years has segmental memory loss, where the last few years are short to bit. In addition to that, holding a flawless conversation is a problem and has difficulties with names and reading books takes longer time. So, people with narcolepsy do experience memory loss on various degrees. There are people who are really bad with names and will keep asking people their names over and over because they cannot remember. Another thing people with narcolepsy may forget is where they put/placed something, and despite their efforts to remember, it is futile.
The Symptoms Of Narcolepsy
The main symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness and fragmented night sleep. In addition to that, individuals may also experience sudden muscle weakness (cataplexy), automatic behavior, which involves doing something without any recollection thereafter, and short episodes of paralysis while waking up. People with this disorder also exhibit a symptom of abnormal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The EDS, which basically is chronic attacks of drowsiness, can last for as long as a few seconds or several minutes. The frequency of the drowsiness attacks also varies from a few incidences to more than a few incidences in a day.(1)
Living With Narcolepsy
It is really difficult to adjust to living with narcolepsy. This is because at times one may experience an insatiable urge to sleep which is difficult to fight against, which especially happens during the day. Needless say, the excessive daytime sleepiness attacks can happen at anytime and for a certain period of time. In severe cases, especially narcolepsy with cataplexy, individuals experience muscle weakness and difficulties in speech and movement in other instances. Other people may also experience hallucinations that often occur either at the beginning or end of a sleep period. In short, narcolepsy can drastically affect your day-in-day-out activities, which can make life more difficult.
To be able to lead a near normal life, some adjustments you can make to your lifestyle include;
- Having a sleeping schedule that you follow through every dawning day. You should follow this schedule even during weekends and vacations.
- Get enough sleep, at least 7 hours of sleep every day.
- Make your bedroom quiet, relaxing and as comfortable enough as you can to enhance a peaceful night.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
- Avoid large meals and drinking lots of fluids before bedtime.
- Also, go to bed only when you feel sleepy and in case you do not fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.(1)
Narcolepsy does impact memory loss in one way or the other. Some individuals do experience difficulties with memories prior to developing narcolepsy; others have difficulties remembering people’s names or current events. As a result, living a normal life seems overrated, however, with certain lifestyle modification; you can be able to lead a near normal life with minimal struggles.
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