What do you think of when you hear the term “narcolepsy”? This sleep disorder is very misunderstood and is sometimes mocked in conversation and media. In reality, this sleep disorder can cause serious disruptions to patients and even those around them. At a minimum, this disorder interferes with a patient's daily life. At worse, it can cause a sleep attack - and contribute to the risk of injury due to a loss of consciousness.
If you or a loved one experience and/or exhibit signs and symptoms of narcolepsy, it’s important to contact a pulmonary and sleep disorder specialist for evaluation. That’s where we come in. Formed in January of 1997, Ohio Chest Physicians, LTD., is a thriving independent practice focused on pulmonary health and sleeping disorders. Most importantly, we will do all we can to provide you with the best care possible!
Please feel free to contact us or request an appointment online. We are always happy to help!
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness. While it’s normal for all of us to feel exhaustion and tiredness, narcolepsy causes overwhelming drowsiness that patients cannot overcome. This leads to daytime “sleep attacks” where patients fall asleep as a result of their illness. In addition to causing sleep attacks, the condition is associated with sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and even a sudden loss of muscle control in some cases.
Narcolepsy affects approximately 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 people. It’s diagnosed through a physical exam, a medical history, and - based on the results of the first two - sleep studies (to confirm a diagnosis).
This sleeping disorder is caused by an immune system malfunction where the body begins to attack a particular type of brain cell. The cells lost are associated with the control of a hormone that helps to regulate wakefulness. Without normal levels of this hormone, a patient suffers from chronic daytime exhaustion and drowsiness.
The exact trigger behind these immune system attacks is still unknown. However, a genetic component is likely part of the cause, as narcolepsy tends to run in families.
The leading symptoms of narcolepsy are drowsiness and fatigue, specifically during daylight hours. Patients can also have vivid dream-like hallucinations and paralysis while falling asleep or waking up. Many patients experience disrupted, irregular nighttime sleep as well. Finally, the condition can be accompanied by cataplexy - a sudden loss of muscle control that can cause a person to collapse, slump over, or slur words without much warning.
There’s currently no cure for narcolepsy. However, there are treatments (i.e. medications) and lifestyle changes that greatly improve symptoms for people so they can lead normal, productive lives. It’s important for people to visit their doctor if they experience excessive daytime sleepiness that disrupts their personal or professional life. A family doctor can at least provide an initial physical exam and take a medical history. However, patients will need to visit with a sleep specialist and undergo a sleep study to receive a final diagnosis and treatment plan.
Once the plan is in place, patients will need to adhere to it for maximum results. Treatment plans are likely to include recommendations for medications (either stimulants or anti-depressants, depending on the findings of a sleep study), daily habit recommendations (ex. Avoiding alcohol, scheduling naps, etc.), and guidelines on what information to keep on-hand should a sleep attack strike while a patient is in public.
At Ohio Chest Physicians, LTD., our doctors are board-certified specialists in pulmonary, critical care, sleep, and internal medicine. In addition to offering care via our multiple offices, we work directly with the West Region Sleep Center to conduct patient sleep testing.
The Center is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) - this certifies that the Center meets or exceeds all AASM standards for professional, quality health care. Center physicians are specialists in the field of sleep medicine, and Center sleep technicians are aided by the latest in diagnostic technology.
To evaluate patients who may be living with narcolepsy, we will refer you to the Center for an overnight observational test. Once testing is complete, the Center will report its findings back to us for your follow-up care at your Ohio Chest Physicians office of choice. From there, we can provide medical recommendations to help you cope with your symptoms and return to a more normal state of being.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the leading therapy for sleep disorders caused by breathing problems. When using a CPAP machine, patients wear a mask overnight that's connected via a pump and machine. The machine provides a positive flow of air into the nasal passages and helps to keep our airways open. While using a CPAP can seem intimidating or impossible, many people adjust to the machines within a couple of weeks or months.
The best way to determine if you are suffering from sleep-related breathing problems is to speak with medical experts who are certified to conduct a fully monitored sleep study. An in-lab sleep study provides the most complete evaluation of your sleep.
Home sleep testing is also available, although these studies require you to set up any testing equipment for overnight use. Home sleep testing may be recommended for patients with no significant medical conditions other than the suspected sleep-related breathing problem. It should not be used to diagnosis more complicated cases or offered to patients with serious chronic conditions
At Ohio Chest Physicians, LTD., our doctors are board-certified specialists in pulmonary, critical care, sleep, and internal medicine. Our primary focus is on treating patients with lung conditions such as COPD, asthma and respiratory-related sleep disorders. Our medical team is more than capable of effectively preventing, diagnosing and treating a wide range of diseases and other conditions. What's more, most of the physicians in our group have 20 to 25 years of experience. So, when you are ready to receive quality care, pick up the phone and call us!