Sleep Disorders Narcolepsy Effects

Narcolepsy is a chronic condition. While it is not a deadly illness, narcolepsy side effects can lead to health complications, and the effects of narcolepsy can take a toll on a person’s quality of life, personal safety, relationships and job productivity.

Narcolepsy Effects and Safety

Accidents and injuries are potentially serious narcolepsy effects. People living with narcolepsy have an increased risk of accidents due to excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks and cataplexy.

A sleep attack while cooking can result in serious cuts or burns. A sleep attack while driving or operating heavy machinery could prove fatal, either to the person with narcolepsy or other people. The University of Maryland (2009) reports that up to 75 percent of people with narcolepsy have fallen asleep while driving.

Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone and one of the more common effects of narcolepsy. A severe cataplexy attack can cause people to collapse, increasing the risk of injuries. Even without sleep attacks or cataplexy, a high injury risk is one of the effects of narcolepsy. Daytime sleepiness impairs judgment and concentration, increasing the possibility of accidents.

Narcolepsy in the Workplace and School

Few people understand narcolepsy. Co-workers and teachers may misinterpret the effects of narcolepsy as laziness or rudeness. Explaining narcolepsy side effects often helps counter such assumptions.

Impairments in concentration, focus and memory are common narcolepsy effects, and caused by extreme daytime sleepiness. Without treatment, work productivity and learning abilities suffer. Narcolepsy medication, such as modafinil, helps promote wakefulness. Modafinil does not cause anxiety, giving the medication an advantage over traditional stimulant medication.

Narcolepsy: Side Effects on Intimate Relationships

Narcolepsy effects can damage intimate relations. Many people report chronic daytime sleepiness lowers their sex drive, with some people even experiencing sleep attacks during sex. Men living with narcolepsy may find it difficult to maintain erections.

Emotional Side Effects of Narcolepsy

The effects of narcolepsy can include emotional difficulties, especially when narcolepsy side effects remain untreated. Rates of depression among people with narcolepsy run as high as 57 percent, compared with 8 percent rates among the general population, according to The University of Maryland (2009).

Laughing, excitement and strong emotions can trigger cataplexy, or a loss of muscle tone. Knowing this, people with cataplexy may try to avoid emotional triggers. Unfortunately, many cataplexy triggers are positive emotions associated with social activities, so some people avoid social interaction. Unwanted and embarrassing effects of narcolepsy can leave people socially isolated.

Physical Health and Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy increases the risk of obesity, possibly due to low activity levels caused by sleepiness. Low levels of the brain chemical hypocretin also occur with narcolepsy. Hypocretin may also play a role in appetite, so hypocretin deficiencies might account for weight gain among people with narcolepsy.

Modafinil and Narcolepsy Effects

Medications such as modafinil help counter narcolepsy side effects. While modafinil does not treat cataplexy, the medication does increase daytime wakefulness. Modafinil belongs to a family of medication called “wakefulness promoting agents.” Modafinil works by controlling brain chemicals responsible for sleep and wakefulness. Other drugs, such as certain antidepressants and sodium oxybate, may reduce symptoms of cataplexy.


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