Causes of Narcolepsy.
It is generally agreed, amid ongoing research that the causes of narcolepsy are complex involving mainly genetics accompanied by some kind of environmental trigger.
The condition is caused by the lack of a brain chemical called hypocretin or orexin. This activates the tendency to fall asleep making it difficult for the narcoleptic to stay alert.Now, scientists are developing treatments to supplement hypocretin levels and so reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy. They are also investigating the respective roles of heredity and environmental triggers.
The precise cause of narcolepsy is unknown. It is thought that genetics plays a main role in it. However, the larger influence might be a trigger, such as an infection, which causes the damage to certain brain cells which are important to sleep.
Normal sleep pattern versus Narcolepsy
The normal process of falling asleep starts with a phase called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Your brain waves slow down a lot during this phase. After about an hour or two of NREM sleep, your brain activity picks up speed again and REM sleep begins. It the REM sleep phase where most of the dreaming occurs.
Impact of Narcolepsy on Children
Due to the results of research on narcolepsy, experts have started to realize that narcolepsy sometimes contributes to some childhood behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has to be addressed before the behavioral problems can be resolved.
If narcolepsy is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can pose special problems for adolescents and children, by interfering with their social, psychological, and cognitive development and lowering their ability to do well at school. For some young people, low self-esteem as a result of poor academic performance can persist well into adulthood.
A group of scientists are conducting a big epidemiological study now to determine the occurrence of narcolepsy in children aged 2 to 14 years who have been diagnosed with ADHD.