Narcolepsy medication can be a controversial topic because much of it can have serious side effects and may become addictive. This can cause some people to be concerned about what to do for treatment, but as of this moment, medication remains the most successful form of treatment for this disturbing medical issue. Taking medication for narcolepsy is perfectly acceptable and can be safe provided you carefully follow your doctor's orders.
Before discussing medication, it is important to understand just what narcolepsy is and what needs to be done to treat it. In healthy individuals, the sleep process comes on gradually, with our bodies slowing down into a phase known as NREM, or non-rapid eye movement. Brain waves slow and drowsiness occurs until the body eventually enters rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. This is the period of heavy sleep during which dreaming usually occurs.
In individuals with narcolepsy, NREM is bypassed entirely and they automatically enter REM sleep, sometimes without warning and even during the day while performing routine tasks. Individuals with narcolepsy can fall asleep while talking, working or driving, which can be extremely dangerous. And REM sleep has other characteristics, including loss of muscle tone known as cataplexy and brief periods of sleep paralysis, which narcolepsy patients may exhibit. Narcolepsy medication can work to prevent this from occurring.
There is no cure for narcolepsy but certain lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and nicotine, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, taking regular naps and getting plenty of exercise, can all help to ease the symptoms. In severe cases, when these measures don't get the job done, it may become necessary to rely on prescription medications in order to relieve symptoms and get back to a normal sleep pattern.
The most common form of narcolepsy medication is stimulants. Drugs such as Provigil and Nuvigil, which are designed to help people stay awake, can be quite effective and these newer medications tend to be less addictive than their older cousins. They sometimes have mild side effects including dry mouth, headache and nausea, but they don't cause the pronounced high and low swings or heart palpitations and nervousness that more powerful stimulants can.
In individuals who experience cataplexy as part of their condition, doctors may be inclined to prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. These medications, which can include Prozac and Sarafem, work by inhibiting REM sleep, thus also preventing the side effects of REM such as cataplexy and sleep paralysis. They can have a variety of side effects that includes weight gain, sexual dysfunction and digestive problems.
Other narcolepsy medication such as tricyclic antidepressants or sodium oxybate may also be effective. Tricyclic antidepressants can help to combat cataplexy while sodium oxybate works to improve nighttime sleep, which can often be disrupted in narcolepsy patients. Of course you shouldn't take any of these medications without consulting your doctor, especially if you are on medication for any other condition, which may interact badly with these drugs.
Narcolepsy can have a devastating effect on your life, making it impossible for you to get the proper sleep and difficult for you to engage in regular waking activities. With so many helpful medications available, there is no reason why you should continue to suffer. Talk to your doctor today and find out if there is a medication that could help you get the sleep you need and get back to living the life you want.