Narcolepsy is a disorder that disrupts the lives of its sufferers by making them excessively sleepy, and unable to stay awake, against their will.
This may sound like a fairly benign problem, especially to those who struggle with insomnia and may think that sleep at any time is a good thing.
But PubMed said that even aside from the unwanted sleep periods, narcoleptics may also be subject to hallucinations while awake.
Sleep paralysis may also occur, a condition that makes it impossible to move falling asleep or while waking up.
Cataplexy, an unexpected and abrupt lack of muscle tone can cause devastating problems, and can be brought on be anger, laughter or intense emotion.
These symptoms can be enormous challenges for the narcoleptic, potentially making a normal life impossible. ScienceDaily.com said that narcolepsy affects about 3 million people around the world.
According to a May 6, 2009 article on USnews.com, research has uncovered possible genetic causes for narcolepsy.
Research led by Mignot Emmanuel Mignot, M.D., a sleep researcher, expert in narcolepsy and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator from Stanford University School of Medicine, indicated that narcolepsy may be linked with a gene that encodes T cell receptor alpha.
T cell receptor alpha has interaction with HLA proteins. An immune reaction is the end result.
Masashi Yanagisawa, neuroscientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas said that this research potentially offers confirmation that narcolepsy is an autoimmune condition.
The study showed that narcoleptics were liable to carry different genetic markers as compared to healthy people. Narcoleptics often had one of three SNPs which are genetic markers. These were found in the genome, where the gene for T cell receptor alpha is located.
This is potentially only part of the answer to the question as to how people get narcolepsy. People with this version of the T cell receptor gene still only stand a 1.5 percent risk of becoming narcoleptic.