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Source:

Nursing2015

June 2005, Volume 35 Number 6 , p 74 - 75

Author

  • TERRILYNN FOX QUILLEN RN, BS

Abstract

Outline

  • More than an after-lunch slump

  • Confirming the diagnosis

  • Stimulating choices

  • Supporting your patient

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  • SELECTED REFERENCES

    NARCOLEPSY IS COMMONLY diagnosed after a person falls asleep while driving and has an accident. Once thought to be rare, it affects more than 135,000 Americans, but many of them are unaware of their condition. Chronic sleepiness is often mistakenly attributed to other causes, explaining why the average delay between symptom onset and diagnosis is 10 to 15 years.

    Because it's linked to accidents, narcolepsy can be hazardous to your patient's health. Here, I'll explain how to assess for it and steer your patient to safety.

    More than an after-lunch slump

    Although some children have been diagnosed with narcolepsy, symptoms usually begin during puberty or young adulthood. According to the Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Narcolepsy, it's the second leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), behind obstructive sleep apnea.

    The EDS of narcolepsy is unlike the ordinary drowsiness experienced after a big lunch. Persistent and irresistible, the EDS of narcolepsy may overtake the patient without warning, causing sudden, brief moments of slumber. Also called microsleeps, these sleep attacks can occur during a meaningful activity, such as eating, talking, and even sexual intercourse. After sleeping for minutes (sometimes hours), the patient may awaken feeling refreshed or dazed.

    During microsleeps, people may have automatic behavior, or a period of poor concentration or foggy thinking characterized by routine, complex, or bizarre automatic behavior. Examples include continuing to type, driving to an unintended location, or putting dishes into the washing machine instead of the dishwasher.

    People with narcolepsy may awaken frequently ...

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