A treatment strategy may involve the following lifestyle changes:
- Stick to good sleep habits. Consistent and enough sleep is essential for anyone suffering from narcolepsy. If you have narcolepsy, your body already has a more difficult time coordinating your sleep and wakefulness than typical. As a result, doing everything in your power to keep your sleep patterns in sync helps to avoid exacerbating the problem. “For patients with narcolepsy, not getting at least seven hours can be substantially worse,” Hershner explains. She believes that maintaining a consistent routine is essential. Every day, even on weekends, I go to bed and wake up at the same hour. Keep your bedroom cool and comfy, and do something relaxing before going to bed, such as taking a warm bath.
- Take naps. Strategic napping — taking short, scheduled naps throughout the day — can help with daytime sleepiness, improve energy, and reduce the number of unplanned sleep attacks, according to Eric Olson, MD, a Mayo Clinic professor of medicine and sleep medicine specialist and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s board of directors (AASM).
- Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol at night. They are even using these medications several hours before night can exacerbate narcolepsy symptoms.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise at least four or five hours before bedtime will help you sleep better at night.
Experts Say Better Narcolepsy Treatment Options Are on the Horizon
According to the Stanford Medicine Center for Narcolepsy, the more common type of narcolepsy (type 1), in which people experience cataplexy as well as other symptoms, occurs when an individual has lower-than-normal levels of hypocretin (also known as orexin, a key brain chemical that regulates sleep and wakefulness).
While doctors aren’t sure what causes this hypocretin deficit, Dr. Mignot believes it’s caused by the immune system wrongly attacking hypocretin-producing brain cells following infection.
Doctors presently have no method to restore this damage, but they are looking at ways to replace hypocretin and figure out which cells fight and destroy hypocretin in the first place.
“Can we halt the degradation of hypocretin before it’s too late?” “Because once it’s destroyed, it’s gone,” explains Mignot. Mignot describes the goal as “finding medications to stop the attack on hypocretin” (imagine putting chewing gum on an open lock so it can’t be closed shut). “We might be able to prevent narcolepsy in certain people,” adds Mignot.
“The Holy Grail is concentrating on orexin,” explains Bogan. “It’s the critical missing link in narcolepsy, just like insulin is for diabetics.” Several pharmaceutical companies are conducting early-stage research on medications known as orexin receptor agonists, which keep orexin molecules active in the brain for more extended periods, according to a study published in Frontiers in Endocrinology in October 2019.
According to MedlinePlus, another therapy option could be to hack the exact pharmacological mechanisms utilized in insomnia drugs like suvorexant.
We’ll have better diagnostic tools and treatments as doctors learn more about narcolepsy, adds Mignot. “Right now, we can only treat symptoms; it would work much better if we could restore what’s lacking.”