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All about narcolepsy causes of narcolepsy risk factors for narcolepsy complications of narcolepsy symptoms of narcolepsy diagnosis of narcolepsy treatment for narcolepsy {sleep disorders} dysomnias insomnia narcolepsy sleep apnea restless legs syndrome delayed sleep phase syndrome night terror sleepwalking (somnambulism) bedwetting sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) sleeping sickness sleep paralysis snoring bruxism jet lag

What causes narcolepsy?

There is some hereditary component to the occurrence of narcolepsy. Researchers identified the gene that causes narcolepsy. The gene allows cells in the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates sleep behavior) to receive messages from other cells. When this gene is abnormal, cells cannot communicate properly, and abnormal sleeping patterns develop. The disorder sometimes runs in families, but most people with narcolepsy have no relatives with the

disorder. Researchers believe that the inheritance of narcolepsy is similar to that of heart disease. In heart disease, several genes play a role in being susceptible to the disorder, but it usually does not develop without an environmental trigger of some sort

Narcolepsy may be associated with damage to the amygdala. A cerebral protein has recently been discovered that is decreased in a large number or all narcolepsy patients. The protein involved is called hypocretin or orexin. Hypocretin levels in human subjects with narcolepsy have been found to be undetectable or low in several recent studies of patients with narcolepsy. Hypocretin appears to modulate activity in the hypothalamus (the part of the brain associated with sleep). The deficiency of hypocretin might produce sleep attacks. Modafinil (a drug) useful in the treatment of narcolepsy is believed to activate hypocretin-containing nerve cells.

The neural control of normal sleep states and the relationship to narcolepsy are only partially understood. In humans, narcoleptic sleep is characterized by a tendency to go abruptly from a waking state to REM sleep with little or no intervening non-REM sleep. The changes in the motor and proprioceptive systems during REM sleep have been studied in both human and animal models. During normal REM sleep, spinal and brainstem alpha motor neuron hypopolarization produces almost complete atonia of skeletal muscles via an inhibitory descending reticulospinal pathway. Acetylcholine may be one of the neurotransmitters involved in this pathway. In narcolepsy, the reflex inhibition of the motor system seen in cataplexy is believed identical to that seen in normal REM sleep.

It has been theorized that narcolepsy may be an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system may be tricked into perceiving its own proteins to be antigens. (Antigens are foreign substances targeted for attack by immune factors in the body.) In the case of narcolepsy, such an attack occurs against cells containing hypocretin, possibly because of their resemblance to some actual antigen, such as a virus. However, evidence to date does not support the autoimmune theory.

More information on narcolepsy

What is narcolepsy? - Narcolepsy is a disabling neurological disorder of sleep regulation that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. Narcolepsy causes sudden episodes of deep sleep.
What causes narcolepsy? - Narcolepsy may be associated with damage to the amygdala. There is hereditary cause to the occurrence of narcolepsy. Gene that causes narcolepsy has been identified.
What're the risk factors for narcolepsy? - Narcolepsy affects males and females equally and occurs in all racial and ethnical groups. The condition may run in families.
What're the complications of narcolepsy? - Narcolepsy may cause you to experience serious problems in both your professional and personal lives. Narcolepsy often affects intimate relationships.
What're the symptoms of narcolepsy? - The earliest symptom of narcolepsy is daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include cataplexy, hallucinations, sleep paralysis.
How is narcolepsy diagnosed? - Diagnosis of narcolepsy is based on the medical history and physical examination. Multiple sleep latency test is a necessary for narcolepsy diagnosis.
What's the treatment for narcolepsy? - There is no cure for narcolepsy, treatment options are available to help reduce the various symptoms. Treatment is primarily by medications.
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