It’s easy to confuse disturbances in sleeping patterns that lead to daytime sleepiness and lack of focus, however sleep apnea and narcolepsy are completely different afflictions of sleep. Narcolepsy occurs due to a malfunctioning of nerve cells called hypocretins. It is believed to be an autoimmune disease. Conversely, sleep apnea is a condition where a person fails to breathe correctly during sleep. Learn more about these common sleep conditions and how they can affect your life.
The Primary Differences
- A person with sleep apnea has all the symptoms of someone who is sleep deprived. Because of intermittent waking throughout the night, they never truly get a good night’s sleep.
- Someone with narcolepsy will fall asleep several times throughout the day, with no warning and in the middle of any types of tasks.
Sleep apnea can happen to anyone at any age, however it’s more typical in older adults.
- Narcolepsy typically occurs to a person in their teenage years.
- Sleep apnea is more prevalent when there is an obstruction of air passages, while narcolepsy is primarily diagnosed within the nerve cells.
- The treatment of sleep apnea is with a CPAP, surgery, or dental appliances. Narcolepsy is treated with prescribed medicines and behavioral therapy.
What are the Causes of Each?
If a person is diagnosed with central sleep apnea it is primarily recognized as a basic problem originating in the brain. The brain refuses to signal the muscles in the throat to inhale, thus the person stops breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to an obstruction in the air passages, while a mixed sleep apnea happens due to a combination of the two.
Narcolepsy, on the other hand, is characterized by disturbed sleep throughout the night, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations. The nerves in the body simply break down and don’t allow a flow of muscle control during the day. It is rare for a person to be diagnosed with narcolepsy in their 30’s and 40’s, as symptoms appear early in teenage years.
Different Conditions, Different Types of Treatment
Both conditions need to be treated differently. Sleep apnea is more commonly cared for by a dental or sleep specialist, and their guidelines are able to successfully remedy the situation. Narcolepsy is much more severe and requires specialists in nerve and behavioral disorders. There is no surgery involved in the treatment process for the latter.
At North Texas Sleep Solutions, Dr. Rebecca Lauck is an exceptional specialist in sleep apnea, and after an initial consultation, she can recommend the treatment that works for you. Give her office a call today to see why she and her staff are the best in the business!