Narcolepsy & Nicotine

Published: 24th July 2008
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Narcolepsy is a well-known sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep uncontrollably at any time of the day. This is a very serious and dangerous condition because the person could fall asleep while driving, cooking, shopping or any other normal daily activity. Another dangerous situation is falling asleep while smoking. About one in every 2,000 people are diagnosed with narcolepsy. The chance that you could be diagnosed with the condition is higher if you have a relative who also has it. Narcolepsy is thought to affect the same number of men and women.

Recently, a small questionnaire-style study was conducted on a number of patients. According to the director, Lois Krahn, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, 75% of the narcolepsy patients studied reported burns on their skin, clothing, furniture, and carpets when they fell asleep while smoking. Dr. Krahn reported the results at the annual Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting.

Dr. Krahn also stated that the study first originated in her treatment of patients with narcolepsy. Many of the patients reported that they used nicotine, which is a stimulant to stop smoking, in order to stay awake. The patients reported that those around them told them that they woke up and had a cigarette in order to wake up further.

To verify the effects of narcolepsy and nicotine, Dr. Krahn and colleagues compiled and distributed a 25 numbered questionnaire at the 2007 national meeting of the Narcolepsy Network, which is also a patient support organization.

Of the total respondents, Dr. Krahn reported:

47% of participants were previous and present nicotine users and had smoked at some point. However, some of them had switched to other methods of smoke-free aids, such as patches.

37% of the smokers said that they had fallen asleep while smoking.

25% of participants said that they smoked in bed.

Despite the percentages, all of the smokers said that nicotine was an effective method of combating their narcoleptic symptoms. They also said that they had used both cigarettes and nicotine in order to reduce their narcolepsy. Dr. Krahn said that while this was a preliminary study, there is a great future for the use of nicotine supplements combating narcolepsy. Transdermal nicotine or nicotine gum could be a future therapy option for patients who smoke and are diagnosed with narcolepsy. The study also pushes sleep doctors and physicians who specialize in narcolepsy to ask their patients: "Do you smoke?"

A spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Kramer, said that he is going to start questioning his patients more closely. He has around 150 narcolepsy patients in his care. While he was not involved with the study, he also said that he was not aware of this risk to his patients. He routinely talks to his patients about the dangers of falling asleep while driving or cooking, but now he will make sure to enforce the danger of smoking with narcolepsy as well. Dr. Kramer also stated that many of his patients face a hard road ahead by quitting smoking as to the fact that it might make their narcolepsy worse.

Author George Venables - Mattressman - suppliers of memory foam mattress deals

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