April 2, 2018; by Briana McDonald (UtopiaSilver.com) Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that affects an estimated 200,000 people in the United States alone. This condition can make daily life very difficult to manage since staying awake for long periods of time is very hard for the individual suffering with the condition regardless of the circumstance or occasion. The person can fall asleep while at school, work, driving, cooking a meal, or playing in a sport. Often times other conditions such as sleep paralysis which can be extremely terrifying for the individual, and cataplexy can accompany this condition. Thankfully you can combat sleep paralysis and narcolepsy naturally with the following tips.
Signs and Symptoms of Narcolepsy
This condition affects everyone differently and not every individual will have all of the following symptoms.
- an uncontrollable urge to sleep at often inappropriate times
- weakening of muscles (knee buckle, jaw sag, eye droop, etc) with strong emotions like laughter
- poor-quality sleep at night (if you fall asleep easily but have difficulty staying asleep)
- sleep paralysis when falling asleep or upon waking up where you are unable to move or speak
- vivid (often frightening) dreamlike experiences when falling asleep or waking up also known as hypnagogic hallucinations (1)
- lack of physical energy
- brain fog, poor memory, lack of mental focus and poor cognitive functioning
Young children may experience additional symptoms such as irritability, hyperactivity, tongue sticking out, half closed eyes, and unsteady gait. (2)
Get Informed and Speak with a Sleep Specialist
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms on a regular basis you should look into seeing a sleep specialist along with making some pretty easy lifestyle changes. Narcolepsy is often misunderstood with about half of those affected being misdiagnosed. The condition involves nerve cells and chemicals in the brain that can be tested through diagnostic sleep tests.
What is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is considered a symptom of narcolepsy. It is characterized as the feeling of being awake and conscious but unable to move or speak. This can last between several seconds to several minutes and the episodes can occur as an individual is falling asleep or upon waking. People of any age or gender can develop this condition however it is first noticed in teenage years and is more predominate in women. (3)
Causes of Sleep Paralysis
During REM sleep, otherwise known as Rapid Eye Movement, the brain will experience vivid dreams while the muscles of the body are essentially turned off. When a person is asleep, the muscles are unable to move so that the person won’t be able to act out their dreams with their body. Sleep paralysis occurs when a person wakes up before REM is completely finished. The person will be conscious but the body’s ability to move hasn’t been turned back on yet. (4)
It is also thought that sleep paralysis can be genetic according to a study done on 862 twins and siblings. It is also thought by the medical community that people who suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. According to a 2011 study by Pennsylvania State University 31.9 percent of those who experienced sleep paralysis also experienced those mental disorders. (5)
Other factors include:
- not getting enough sleep on a regular basis
- an inconsistent sleep schedule
- eating heavy, sugary meals before bed
- taking some types of medications
- excess of stress, especially on a chronic basis
- sleeping on your back
- using drugs
- vitamin D deficiency
So now that we have more of an idea of what it is, let’s look at how to treat it naturally.
There are several lifestyle changes a person can incorporate to reduce the amount of these experiences.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Incorporate a healthy bedtime routine for yourself and for your family. Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time can help get your sleep cycles back into a healthy rhythm.
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. As we all know caffeine makes it more difficult to calm the mind and fall asleep and alcohol can disrupt the normal sleep cycles even though it does make one feel drowsy.
3. Exercise Consistently, even 20 minutes per day of light to moderate exercise like walking, Pilates, and yoga can help relieve common symptoms including depression, brain fog and poor sleep quality. It is recommended to exercise with a friend since falling asleep under any circumstance can happen with this disorder.
4. Consume more Omega-3s to help with cognitive function and performance as well as nourish the brain with healthy fat and reduce any inflammation in the body.
5. Eat a Healthy Diet overall to ensure that you are getting a balanced amount of all essential vitamins and minerals. Doing an elimination diet can help to pinpoint which foods you need to completely cut out like gluten, dairy, chocolate, corn and soy. Also be sure to avoid sugar and caffeine as these substances cause a rise and fall of energy that can worsen symptoms.
6. Supplement with 5-HTP: a study where patients with narcolepsy with cataplexy were given 600mg per day of 5-HTP or a placebo for four weeks showed there was a marked decrease in the duration of daytime sleep and a significant increase of the duration of nighttime sleep.
7. Increase your Vitamin D intake as as small study found a higher frequency of vitamin D deficiency in patients with narcolepsy with cataplexy that in the general population. It is also recognized that a deficiency in this vitamin is linked to fatigue and pain. Supplementing with a high-quality vitamin D-3 supplement may help alleviate symptoms.
Briana MacDonald- Natural Health Writer
Briana McDonald-natural health writer is a Staff Writer of the Silver Bulletin e-News Magazine (Utopia Silver Supplements). She does website ad designing for the company as well as free-lance health article writing.