Getting a good night’s sleep is important to how you feel. Conditions that affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep can make you feel tired and unable to function properly during the day. Let’s explore two of the most common conditions that can interrupt your ability to feel your best.
Sleep Apnea vs. Narcolepsy
Apnea and narcolepsy are conditions that affect your ability to function during the day. They can also cause significant health risks. Both these conditions have to do with sleep and are often confused, but they are quite different. Some people can have both conditions at the same time, which can cause serious symptoms.
Apnea comes in three different forms, depending on the cause. It is characterized by breathing that repeatedly stops and starts many times during the night. It can cause you to snore loudly and feel tired, even though you think that you got a proper night’s sleep in terms of the number of hours.
Narcolepsy is a condition that causes extreme drowsiness during the day. The person might suddenly fall asleep in a “sleep attack” at inopportune times. It can cause significant disturbances in a person’s daily life, including the ability to hold a job. Narcolepsy and apnea are quite different in terms of the mechanism that causes them, but both can lead to long-term, serious health conditions that include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive impairment
These serious health conditions can be life-threatening. In addition, when you do not get enough sleep, it can lead to being accident-prone and the potential for physical harm. Aside from the more serious complications that can occur, both conditions can affect intimate relationships, trouble concentrating, moodiness, depression, and poor job or school performance.
Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea comes in three different forms. Obstructive apnea is when the muscles of the throat relax and partially block the airway. Central apnea is when the brain does not send the signals that tell you to keep breathing while you sleep. Complex apnea is when someone has both obstructive and central apnea.
Apnea causes you to stop breathing during the night, which deprives your brain of oxygen every time it happens. This can cause you to wake up gasping for air, dry mouth, and a morning headache. Sometimes, your partner might report that you stop breathing for long periods of time when you sleep, and this can affect those around you, too. You might also experience trouble staying asleep and all the effects during the day due to a lack of sleep.
Narcolepsy is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance involves hypocretin, which is a brain chemical that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles. Although it is not known what causes narcolepsy in all cases, it is believed that genetics play a role or exposure to certain viruses.
Excessive sleepiness during the day is the most common symptom of narcolepsy, but it can also cause a sudden loss of muscle tone. This condition is called cataplexy and can cause slurred speech and a complete weakness in the muscles. These episodes typically last a few minutes. Cataplexy is uncontrollable and can be triggered by any type of intense emotion, including laughter, fear, or surprise.
Narcolepsy also causes sleep paralysis, which is a feeling of being unable to move while you are falling asleep. These episodes can be frightening. They usually occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. Changes in REM sleep can have an impact on the ability to feel rested when you wake up.
Another symptom of people with narcolepsy is hallucinations while falling asleep. Some people can have apnea and narcolepsy at the same time. It can also be accompanied by restless leg syndrome and significant insomnia.
Now, you understand the differences between apnea and narcolepsy. Both conditions can lead to serious health complications over time. That is why it is important to see a doctor if you think that you might have one of these conditions. Your physician can help get you a proper diagnosis and get you on your way to effective treatments. It is the most important thing you can do to regain a good night’s sleep and get back to good health.