Narcolepsy vs. Sleep Apnea

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Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2022 at 3:33 pm    

Narcolepsy vs. Sleep Apnea

If you find yourself falling asleep during the day, even if you got a night’s sleep, you could be suffering from one of a number of sleep disturbances. It’s never a good sign to be tired during the day, especially if you need to drive or work. If you’re really getting a good night’s sleep, why are you falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon?

Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy

Of the three types of sleep apnea, the one that is the most common cause of daytime sleepiness is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse, blocking your upper airway. When your airway is blocked, your body wakes up, sometimes so briefly you don’t even notice it. These interruptions in your sleep can happen as often as 30 times an hour. Waking up every couple of minutes, even if you fall immediately back to sleep, is not good for your sleep.

Narcolepsy is a rare neurological disorder. Only about 1 in 2,000 people have narcolepsy. That’s between 135,000 and 200,000 people nationwide. Narcolepsy is believed to affect the brain’s control of the sleep-wake cycle. People with narcolepsy can suddenly fall asleep during the day, even in the middle of a task. They also experience interrupted sleep, with vivid dreams called hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and nightmares.

It appears that sleep apnea and narcolepsy are unrelated. Although about 25% of people with narcolepsy experience sleep apnea, it does not appear that sleep apnea causes narcolepsy. The two disorders have different causes and different treatments.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy

If you’re experiencing daytime sleepiness, restless sleep, or other symptoms that could indicate either sleep apnea or narcolepsy, you should see a sleep apnea specialist who can help you determine what is going on. Dr. Clifford Brown is a member of the Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorder Disciplines, so he will know what questions to ask and what tests to use to determine whether you have sleep apnea or another sleep disturbance.

The best way to tell the two disorders apart is a sleep study. The study will reveal the levels of various hormones and oxygen in your bloodstream before and after you sleep. This will help determine the exact cause of your sleep disturbance.

People with narcolepsy may lack a brain chemical called hypocretin. Normal levels of this chemical would indicate your sleep problem is more likely to be sleep apnea, whereas low levels of hypocretin indicate narcolepsy. Medical tests can confirm this diagnosis.

If Dr. Brown finds that you have sleep apnea, then your treatment can continue at Silent Night Therapy. We can fit you with an oral appliance to realign your jaw and prevent your throat from becoming obstructed during sleep. Our team will advise you on other steps you can take to sleep soundly and avoid daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

Contact Silent Night Therapy Today

Call our office at 631-983-2463 for your complimentary consultation about your daytime sleepiness and nightly restlessness. We’re here to diagnose your problems and help you get more restful sleep.