Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological and sleeps illness that can be debilitating due to the sudden “sleep attacks” — and, in many cases, cataplectic attacks or rapid loss of muscle control — it produces.
Everyday tasks such as driving, caring for children, working, and going to school can be much more difficult (and dangerous) for people with the disorder due to the risk of falling asleep or losing control of your muscles at any time, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
There is no cure for narcolepsy, and it is a chronic disorder that does not go away. The Sleep Foundation, on the other hand, claims that the right combination of medicines and behavioral and lifestyle modifications can help many people with narcolepsy manage their symptoms and live full and happy lives.
“We say we can get 80 percent of patients to 80 percent function,” says Emmanuel Mignot, MD, a Stanford University professor of sleep medicine in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Stanford Center for Narcolepsy in Palo Alto, California. “We can get a significant percentage of individuals to function and perform extremely well.”
Medications Can Help Keep Narcolepsy Symptoms Under Control
According to Richard K. Bogan, MD, associate clinical professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer of the sleep diagnostic company SleepMed, based in Columbia, South Carolina, medications can help the majority of people with narcolepsy with some of the disorder’s most troubling symptoms.
Sticking to a Regular Sleep Schedule Is an Important Part of Managing Narcolepsy
Lifestyle adjustments, in addition to drugs, can make a significant difference in the management of narcolepsy symptoms. According to Shelley Hershner, MD, clinical associate professor of neurology and director of the Collegiate Sleep Clinic at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who has worked on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s narcolepsy quality metrics, the key to successful treatment is a plan that combines medications and behavioral and lifestyle interventions (AASM).
According to Dr. Hershner, the type and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person, and treatment regimens should consider aspects such as clinical history, the timing of sleepiness, and which medications work when. “Treatment must be individualized to each individual.”