Sleep Deprivation or Narcolepsy? UAE doctors say rare diseases go undetected

Doctors in the United Arab Emirates say a rare sleep disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times is going undetected in the country as it marks World Narcolepsy Day – an annual day of awareness to bring overlooked life into to take the limelight. Change in neurological condition.

Narcolepsy affects 50 in every 100,000 people worldwide, yet there are few figures to indicate its prevalence in the UAE.

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dr However, Shobhit Sinha, Specialist in Neurology at NMC Royal Hospital – Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, estimates the prevalence in the Emirates to be between 30 and 50 people per 100,000.

“The diagnosis is often missed and/or delayed by more than a decade because it overlaps with symptoms of other conditions such as seizures, psychiatric disorders, insomnia and sleep apnea,” he told Al Arabiya English.

Symptoms include sleep attacks, daytime sleepiness, nightmares, hallucinations, and cataplexy—temporary muscle weakness in response to emotions. It’s often caused by an autoimmune reaction — that’s when antibodies are released by the body, but instead of destroying disease, they attack healthy cells.

“There are five main symptoms of narcolepsy, denoted by the acronym CHESS {cataplexy (is the sudden, generally brief (

“While all patients with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness, they may not experience all five symptoms.”

In narcolepsy, antibodies attack areas of the brain that produce a sleep-regulating chemical. There is currently no cure, but sometimes the condition can be managed with regular naps, a healthy diet, and exercise.

In some cases, medications such as antidepressants or stimulants can also help.

“Narcolepsy can be treated in a number of ways,” said Dr. sinha

“First, behavioral education for patients, family and friends. Also, sleep hygiene and cognitive behavioral therapy are techniques aimed at behavioral management of narcolepsy symptoms, such as: and treatment of psychosocial effects through self-help groups.”

“There are also specific drugs to treat symptoms of narcolepsy, such as drugs for cataplexy, stimulants for excessive daytime sleepiness, and antidepressants for sleep paralysis and hallucinations.”

Living with narcolepsy can be difficult, the doctor said.

“People with narcolepsy can suffer from mental fog, poor memory, anxiety, phobias and depression. In addition, an increased prevalence of cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia has been reported in people with narcolepsy. This can have a further impact on patients’ social and professional lives.”

“However, narcolepsy is a manageable condition, and almost anyone with narcolepsy can lead a fulfilling life. These challenges can be overcome by educating yourself, friends and family; medication compliance; Sleep hygiene and involvement in narcolepsy support networks.”

Emilia Saulle, a consultant neurologist at the Health Bay Clinic in Dubai, told Al Arabiya English that narcolepsy often goes undetected, saying the condition “can affect all aspects of daily life, including education, work, driving and relationships.”

dr Youssry Salah Shafiq Kerolos, a neurology specialist at Saudi German Hospital in Dubai, said the global incidence rate of narcolepsy is highest in a person’s second decade of life, often affecting teenagers and young adults.

“People with narcolepsy may wake up feeling rested, but then feel very sleepy for most of the day and may unintentionally fall asleep even when they’re in the middle of an activity, such as driving, eating, or talking,” he said. “Although there is no cure for narcolepsy, some of the symptoms can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes such as taking short naps, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine before bed, and exercising daily.”

dr Kerolos said that if left undiagnosed or treated, narcolepsy can impair psychological, social and cognitive functioning and development, and interfere with academic, professional and social activities, and patients are more likely to be involved in car accidents.

“Suddenly falling asleep or losing muscle control can turn normally safe actions, like walking down a long flight of stairs, into danger,” he said.

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