Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder that causes a disturbing pattern of sleep at night leading to severe sleepiness or sleep attacks in the day. It develops usually at the age of 15-30 years. It can causes uncontrollable sleep at any time in the day that keeps the patient awake throughout the night. Its causes are not known clearly. Its symptoms include restless sleep, daytime sleepiness, loss of muscle tone, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. It can be detected by polysomnography and EKG test. It can be treated with medicines and lifestyle modifications. There is no definite cure for this disease. If it is left untreated, its symptoms become worse.

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Does Narcolepsy Get Worse As You Get Older?

Narcolepsy is a chronic disease of the nervous system that causes extreme sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. It causes excess sleeping at any time in the day even during eating, driving or performing other works. The patient is unable to remain awake for a long time in the day. It has the potential to cause serious disturbances in daily life. (1)
The causes of narcolepsy are not understood clearly. It has many causes. It is caused when there is reduced secretion of hypocretin by the brain. This chemical is responsible for the regulation of wakefulness. The lack of hypocretin can also happen due to the overactive immune system. It does not happen in all cases. Other causes that can trigger narcolepsy involve any major psychological stress, hormonal changes during puberty or menopause or severe viral infection like swine flu or vaccine used to prevent it (Pandemrix). (2)

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Narcolepsy is a rare disease that can affect both men and women equally. In some studies, it is suggested that men are more commonly affected than women. It appears in the adolescence age but usually detected in between 20 to 40 years.(2)

Narcolepsy represents itself by the symptoms like restless sleep, drowsiness and sleepiness in the day, disturbed sleep in the night, loss of muscle tone, and hallucinations. Sleep attacks occur nearly up to 10 times in a day. Sleep attacks may happen after meals. It may have serious consequences as they may happen while talking, working or driving. (3)

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Narcolepsy may lead to loss of strength of muscle suddenly. It is called cataplexy. In this condition, the muscles become weak and exhausted. It happens due to extreme emotions such as over joy or laughter, surprise, fear or anger. It also leads to sleep paralysis in which the patient is unable to move or speak in sleep.(3)

The patient may develop sleep paralysis in which he cannot wake or move or speak during sleep. The patient sleeps less and disturbed at night. He may also develop hallucination in a few days in which he sees or hears things that are imaginary and not related to reality.(3)

Narcolepsy usually does not get worse by itself. But, its problems may get aggravated and worse with normal aging. With the advancing age, sleep gradually reduces at night and less alertness in the day. This leads older people to take a nap in the day. Old people take more naps in the day. Narcolepsy represents sleep pattern similar to old people. Both old age and narcolepsy have the risk of disturbed sleep, breathing problems related to sleep and impaired functioning during the daytime. Some of the patients may develop catalepsy or clumsiness that leads to dropping of things from hand. Clinical studies state that the symptoms of catalepsy get worse as the patient grows old. (4)

Conclusion

Narcolepsy is a chronic condition that is marked by sleep attacks and daytime sleepiness. It does not get worse usually. But it may interfere with one’s daily activities. It develops in young age in 20s and 30s. But it may get worse when one gets older and left untreated.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 6, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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