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Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that impairs the ability of individuals to control their sleep and wakefulness. Individuals that have narcolepsy tend to feel sleepy a lot during the daytime, and they experience uncontrollable sleep episodes throughout the day. The uncontrollable sleep episodes can occur at any particular time during the day even when individuals are performing a certain activity such as operating machinery. In normal sleep cycles, individuals experience early sleep stages followed by deeper sleep stages and finally after approximately 90minutes they experience rapid eye movement sleep (Goswani et al., 2013). Narcolepsy sleep disorder alters the sleep cycle of individuals. Individuals with narcolepsy do not experience the early and more profound sleep stages rather they experience rapid eye movement sleep as their first sleep stage (Scammell, 2015). It is in the rapid eye movement sleep stage that individuals experience muscle paralysis and dreams. Thus, individuals with narcolepsy tend to experience muscle paralysis and dreams during the daytime even when performing various activities. Individuals with narcolepsy should seek treatment as soon as possible before the disorder causes them harm through accidents.
Narcolepsy is considered to be among the most prevalent sleep disorders. Narcolepsy affects 1 in every 2,000 individuals (Goswani et al., 2016). The statistics imply that less than 1% of American citizens have narcolepsy (Goswani et al., 2016). According to Goswani, Thorpy, and Meeta (2016), about 5% of patients presenting American accredited sleep labs and centers have the narcolepsy sleeping disorder. Narcolepsy affects individuals of all ages and genders. Women and men are affected equally by the sleep disorder meaning that gender is not a risk factor.
The exact cause of narcolepsy has not yet been established, but various factors are believed to cause it. The first cause of narcolepsy is believed to be genetics. According to Singh et al. (2013), in up to 10% of cases reported of narcolepsy, there is a history of the disorder in the individuals’ family. The primary genetic factor that is associated with narcolepsy sleep disorder is the chromosome 6 which is referred to as the human leukocyte antigen complex. Specific variations observed in the human leukocyte antigen complex gene have a strong correlation with narcolepsy. However, the variations do not necessarily occur only in individuals that have narcolepsy since at times they are observed in individuals without the sleep disorder. The genetic variations observed in individuals with narcolepsy are believed to cause the disappearance of orexin-releasing neurons from the lateral hypothalamus. The genetic variations that cause the disappearance of the neurons increase the risk of an auto-immune reaction towards them. Orexin is a neuropeptide that is found in the human brain, and it performs the role of controlling the wakefulness of individuals among other psychological and cognitive processes (Scammell, 2015). The disappearance of the neuropeptide from the hypothalamus part of the brain due to genetic variations causes individuals to be unable to regulate their wakefulness and to stay awake during the daytime. Doctors state that individuals with narcolepsy have less orexin-releasing neurons compared to individuals that do not have the disorder.
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