Narcolepsy is defined as a chronic sleep disorder that is characterized by sudden attacks of wanting to sleep and increased daytime drowsiness. Individuals affected by this condition struggle to stay awake for prolonged periods of time.
There may be many causes for narcolepsy but the exact one still eludes healthcare professionals.
Some of the suspected causes include:
- Genetics – a family history of the disease may play a role in the development of the condition.
- Low hypocretin levels – patients diagnosed with narcolepsy are known to have a deficiency in this neurotransmitter or hormone produced by the brain that helps to regulate REM sleep and wakefulness in humans. The exact reason why hypocretin levels would below is not known but there is a theory that an autoimmune process may be responsible.
- The H1N1 virus – research has pointed towards a possible link between narcolepsy and exposure to the H1N1 (swine flu) virus although definitive proof has not been established.
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