(BPT) - With busy schedules, it's inevitable to feel sleepy once in a while. But habitually falling asleep during the day while watching TV, reading a book, or in the middle of having a conversation could be a sign of a serious sleep disorder known as narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that involves the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. It affects an estimated one in 2,000 people in the United States, with symptoms typically appearing in early adulthood. Yet it is estimated that 50 percent or more patients with narcolepsy have not been diagnosed. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, awareness of narcolepsy is low. One thousand members of the general public and 400 practicing physicians were surveyed about their knowledge of narcolepsy and its symptoms. Only 7 percent of members of the general public who had heard of the condition reported being "very" or "extremely" knowledgeable about it relative to other chronic diseases. That number only increased to 24 percent among primary care physicians. The majority of people surveyed could not identify all five major symptoms of narcolepsy. In fact, studies have shown it may take 10 years or more for people with narcolepsy to receive a correct diagnosis.
"The symptoms of narcolepsy are not well-recognized, which can lead to misdiagnosis," says Dr. Aatif M. Husain, professor of neurology at Duke University Medical Center.- "By becoming aware of the symptoms of narcolepsy, individuals can have more informed conversations with their doctors, which may help lead to quicker diagnosis."
A recent study, in which researchers evaluated health care data of more than 9,000 narcolepsy patients compared to 46,000 controls, shows that people with narcolepsy are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other conditions including sleep apnea, stroke and heart failure compared to the general population. There are five major symptoms of narcolepsy. Talk to a doctor if one or more sound familiar.
* Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) - EDS, the primary symptom of narcolepsy, is characterized by the inability to stay awake and alert during the day resulting in unplanned lapses into sleep or drowsiness; EDS is present in all people with narcolepsy.
* Cataplexy (muscle weakness with emotions) - A sudden, brief loss of muscle strength triggered by strong emotions like happiness, laughter, surprise, or anger.
* Sleep disruption - Frequent periods of waking up during sleep.
* Sleep paralysis - A brief inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up.
* Hypnogogic hallucinations - Vivid, dream-like events that occur when falling asleep or waking up.
These symptoms vary from person to person and not all five symptoms must be present for a narcolepsy diagnosis. It is also important that family and friends understand these symptoms, as they may observe them and encourage their loved ones to seek medical advice sooner.
Seek information from a sleep specialist if any of these symptoms sound familiar. It's important to talk to a doctor and visit www.waymorethantired.com to learn more about narcolepsy, find a sleep specialist and watch videos to hear from patients with narcolepsy talk about their condition.