Narcolepsy: Ways to Get Your Life Back

My friend got diagnosed with narcolepsy and as soon as I found out, it was my mission to do the research on this neurological disorder. and find an oil for this and help her feel better and lead her to a natural approach using plant based alternative medicine. She has been given strong medicine by her doctor and thank God she doesn't want to take them. In the meantime she is suffering from seasonal allergies like hay-fever so she can't take anti-histamine. From a treatment and cure perspective, there’s no cure.  It is a condition that requires observation and management.  It all boils down to her nutrition, to maintaining a set sleep schedule, and taking scheduled naps.

Excessive sleepiness, hallucinations and sleep paralysis are all characteristics of narcolepsy, a chronic neurological disorder that makes it difficult for the brain to control sleep-wake cycles. (1) This disorder adversely affects the quality of life as symptoms include extreme drowsiness and falling asleep unwillingly during an activity like work or school.

In fact, research indicates after diagnosis, the burden extends beyond the life-altering physical symptoms and includes an adverse impact on mental health as well as economic worries due to work impairment and absenteeism. Presenteeism, a recognized term for workers not fully present and high-functioning due to a medical condition or illness, is also acknowledged for individuals with this condition. (23)

Symptoms including overwhelming fatigue and sleepiness, often start during childhood or adolescence, but individuals of any age can be affected by this life-long illness. There is no cure for this disorder, and even researchers agree that currently available conventional treatments are “imperfect,” and more research is needed. (4)

One of the leading researchers is Dr. Emmanuel Mignot from the Stanford Center for Narcolepsy. The Stanford University team has found that this condition is an autoimmune disease that can follow a case of the flu and they are continually striving to discover which immune cells are responsible for the attack, with the goal of stopping or preventing this disease from developing.

Managing the symptoms can help to improve quality of life. Effective natural treatments that support physical and mental wellness include exercise, supplements, a healthy diet free from allergens, and lifestyle changes — even something as simple as a mid-day nap can help. Finding the right treatment for children and adults alike and learning effective coping mechanisms is imperative.

What Is Narcolepsy? What are the Signs & Symptoms?

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that can dramatically disrupt life and daily routines. This condition makes it very difficult to stay awake for long periods — regardless of the occasion or circumstances. Individuals may fall asleep while driving, during an examination at school, during a meeting a work, while cooking a meal or participating in a team sport.

Cataplexy is fairly common and often co-occurs with this neurological condition. This condition causes uncontrollable muscle paralysis or weakness that seems to be triggered by strong emotions, generally happy ones. When cataplexy strikes, a person may be laughing with friends and, all of a sudden, their knees buckle, or they become unable to move their face, arms or legs. Episodes such as this often only last a couple of moments, but when the episode is over the person may fall asleep unexpectedly. (5)

This neurological condition affects everyone differently. Not every individual with this disease will experience all of the following signs and symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms include: (6)

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness that can lead to falling asleep unwillingly, even during an activity like driving or working.
  • Sleep paralysis can occur just before falling asleep or upon waking. Persons may be temporarily unable to speak or move for a brief period. This is frightening, particularly for young children and teens.
  • Hallucinations while falling asleep and upon waking can be particularly vivid and terrifying. In essence, the hallucinations make it feel like a dream is reality.
  • Snoring caused by obstructive sleep apnea in which the muscles in the throat relax and block the airway during sleep.
  • Involuntary and persistent movements in the legs, called restless leg syndrome.
  • Brain fog, poor memory, lack of mental focus and poor cognitive functioning is common.
  • Lack of physical energy.
  • Poor sleep quality and insomnia.
  • Sudden onset of muscle weakness called cataplexy where paralysis might affect the face, hands, legs, arms and core. This is generally brought on by experiences when emotions run high and the episodes typically last only a few moments.

Young children may experience the following additional symptoms: (78)

  • Irritability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tongue sticking out
  • Half-closed eyes
  • Unsteady gait

Narcolepsy Causes & Risk Factors

Many theories as to the cause exist, and yet researchers still remain united that a definitive cause has not been identified.

Recognized risk factors include: (910)

  • Low levels of hypocretin in the brain. This chemical is essential for healthy sleep-awake patterns. Hypocretin is also responsible for other functions in the brain including the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. When these levels are altered the result can be depression and mood disorders, which are common with this condition.
  • Heredity. Up to 10 percent of people may inherit a gene that affects hypocretin.
  • Low levels of histamine in the blood.
  • Certain brain injuries including tumors, stroke and trauma.
  • Exposure to certain environmental toxins like heavy metals, pesticides, doterraweed killers and smoke.
  • Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or celiac disease.
  • Women are more likely than men to develop narcolepsy.
  • Previous exposure to the H1N1 virus (swine flu).
  • Vitamin D deficiency.

Natural Treatments for Narcolepsy

  1. Eat Healthy
  2. Exercise and Movement
  3. Use Essential Oils
  4. Vitamins & Supplements
  5. Create and morning and bedtime routine 
  6. Be mindful of the company you keep
  7. Slow down and quiet your life
  8. Join a support group

1. EAT HEALTHY

Goodness, I’m already beginning to sound like a doctor!  What you put into your body (and what you don’t) impacts you down to the molecular level.  We eat to rebuild and refuel our bodies.  If we fuel our bodies with junk, we’ll feel like junk.

So assess your eating habits.  Keep a food log.  If you realize that the majority of your meals consist of meat, potatoes, sugary beverages, and heavily processed foods, you should consider making changes.  If you have no idea what a fruit or vegetable looks like or tastes like, you really need to make changes (and I might secretly be judging you for that).

If you have no clue what to change, scour the internet, look for healthy eating books, or best of all, seek help from a registered dietitian or nutritionist.  You can find nutrition providers who specialize in organic and natural eating, eating for chronic illness management, etcetera.  If you’re in the New Jersey area, I highly recommend Paula Attard from Green Kitchen. Even if you’re not in Malta, she is just a FaceBook message away.

Other dietary suggestions:

  •  Talk to your doctor about seeing if you have food allergies that may impact your energy levels.
  • Eat and snack at regular times to maintain constant blood sugar levels.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine consumption.
  • Cut down on sugar intake.  Remember, sugar rushes lead to sugar crashes.
  • Stay hydrated and drink water.
  • Start the day by drinking a cup of warm water mixed with freshly squeezed lemon juice and Peppermint essential oil.
  • Stop eating at least 2 hours before bed time.

2. EXERCISE AND MOVEMENT 

This is about as revolutionary to hear as eating healthy is, but there’s a reason we hear it so frequently when discussing health.  Exercising boosts wakefulness through movement, releases endorphins, and promotes restful sleep.

Finding time to work out can be a major pain, especially when your energy levels are already limited, but it doesn’t always have to be done at one time.  You can find time to move through:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Parking towards the back of the parking garage at work or at the supermarket.
  • Taking a walk on your lunch break.
  • Allowing yourself to sit for 30 – 45 minutes at a time.  When your time is up, get up and stretch or go for a walk. Instead of sitting in a chair, sit on a stability ball to strengthen your core.
  • Make 10 – 15 minutes (or more) of doing yoga apart of your wake up routine.
  • Riding a bike or walking around your town instead of taking the car or public transportation.

 

Just remember that movement keeps your blood flowing.  When you’re blood’s flowing, your brain works better.  And as we know, exercise also help keep you in shape and help you lose weight. 

3. USE ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils not only smell great but have medicinal benefits when you get Pure-Therapeutic Grade.  You can apply them topically with a carrier oil like coconut and grape-seed (Don’t use engine oil. That’s not a good option… unless you’re a narcoleptic car), lol - Ingest them in veggie capsules, or use a diffuser.

Recommended oils to boost energy:

Recommended oils to promote sleep and relaxation:

4. VITAMINS & SUPPLEMNETS

Now this is the best part! I am so happy that I can share this with you. These are the gems of all gems, these are hidden treasures in veggie capsules, (if someone can give me a drum roll please)... I give to you the LIFELONG ViTALITY PACK (LLV). Doctors do suggests those with the condition can learn to sleep more healthily by optimizing general nutrition. Nutrients that can help manage narcolepsy include Calcium and Magnesium, Choline, Chromium Picolinate, Coenzyme Q10, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin C complex (including bioflavonoids) and vitamins D and E. Some research suggests that the LLV may help those with narcolepsy by reducing the duration of cataplexy and improving nighttime sleep.

Even the most ‘healthy’ person would do well to supplement. Every integrative Dr, Nutritionist, Naturopath or switched on individual I know does supplement. (All high quality of course, and yes, you do typically get what you pay for. Those supplements on the supermarket shelves…? BIG NO NO!

The truth is, with the world we live in today, we don’t get everything we need from the environment – air and soil and plants and other natural foods – for complete nutritional health. Even the organic farms are growing in soil that is more depleted than at any other time in history. Our wider environments have a toxic overload more than at any other time in history. Our bodies encounter situations daily that we simply didn’t have in pre-industrialised days. Working inside all day, artificial light, toxic pollution in what we eat, what we put on our skin and what we breathe in.

Then… doTERRA released their best selling supplements in the world They are also on the Colonge List - doTERRA xEO MEGA Essential Oil Omega Complex , doTERRA VEGAN MICRO PLEX VMz Food Nutrient Complexand the Alpha CRS+. These will change your life! I recommend doing your research and approaching me about them.  I find that most modern medicine doctors do not open the conversation about natural alternative medicine.

5. CREATE MORNING AND BEDTIME ROUTINE

Creating rituals for waking up and going to sleep will enforce the state your mind and body need to be in.  They can also eliminate stress that arise from starting the day and getting your brain to settle for sleep.

Suggestions for a wake up routine:

  • Give yourself ample amounts of time to get your day started.
  • If you know you’re the kind of person who hits the snooze button 1.67million times before getting up, set 1.67million alarms.
  • If possible, set your alarm sound to something pleasant but loud enough to wake you up.
  • Take 10 – 15 minutes to do yoga and stretching or a mini-exercise routine.
  • Eat a hearty breakfast to give your body the necessary fuel to get through the morning and take the your LLV.
  • Ease into waking up.  Don’t spring out of bed in a rush, but don’t hang long enough that you’ll fall back asleep.

Suggestions for a bedtime routine:

  • Make sure you’re getting to bed with enough time to get ample sleep.
  • Turn off all electronics or anything that will stimulate you, including WiFi etc...
  • Have a cup of tea – chamomile and lavender are great flavors.
  • Meditate, Pray and be grateful.
  • Take 10 – 15 minutes to do a gentle yoga routine.
  • Set out your clothes and any additional items you’ll need for the next day.
  • Write your “To Do List” for the next day.

6. BE MINDFUL OF THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

We all know at least one of these people: the person who clings to you and seeks your constant attention, the person who always seems to have drama occurring in his/her life, the person where nothing and nobody ever seems good enough.  They’re the Debbie Downers and energy vampires in our lives.  They will suck the life out of you and leave you with nothing positive in return.  And if you’re an introvert these kinds of people can royally mess with your energy levels.

Observe the relationships in your life.  See who enhances your life.  See who’s exhausting to be around.

I’m not recommending you shove the downers out of your life completely.  Sometimes it’s just not appropriate or we can’t do it even if we wanted to.  Instead, be aware of how you feel when you’re around them.  Try to stay detached from their drama and negativity.  Also remember that no matter how much you would love to, you can’t change their behaviour.  You can only change how you react to them.

7. SLOW DOWN AND QUIET YOUR LIFE

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway because it sounds good), but we live in an extremely noisy, fast-paced world where slowing down is considered weak, lazy, and in some cases, selfish.  But the need to slow and quiet down are not signs of any of these things.  They’re an opportunity for us to chill out, collect our thoughts, and heal.  They are crucial to our sanity, and yet they are greatly overlooked.

Suggestions for chilling down your life:

  • Meditate.
  • Get a massage.
  • Schedule a few minutes in your day for alone time.
  • Listen to instrumental music.
  • Take a walk in nature.

Do whatever works best for you.  Just remember to take time for yourself.

8. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP

Research shows us that Narcolepsy is a life-long disorder that disrupts everyday life. It can cause severe hallucinations, depression and anxiety. Learning effective coping mechanisms and discussing the frustrations and fears with others who understand the challenges can help.

Children and teens are particularly susceptible to depression and anxiety and can benefit from support groups and talk therapy. Extreme tiredness, a lack of motivation, feelings of isolation and bullying are common at school and in social groups.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, somewhere between 30 percent and 57 percent of those with this condition have depression. Treating depression effectively must be a top priority with any treatment plan. So it is good to learn more about the disorder and find a group where you can share your experiences with.

 


Hopefully these recommendations help improve energy levels for you or your narcoleptic loved one.  If you have questions on anything in here, I’d be happy to clarify.  If there’s anything I missed, please share.  The more treatment options narcoleptics have, the better!

Thanks for reading and sharing.