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Environmental Exposure May Cause Narcolepsy

A comprehensive review of previous studies on the cause of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep uncontrollably during the day, has revealed environmental exposures before the age of onset in genetically susceptible individuals may trigger the disorder.

The environmental-genetic link is consistent with other diseases characterized by selective cell loss and represents a possible contradiction to common belief that a person’s body mass index, immune responses and stressful life events are factors that may cause narcolepsy.

The study is found in the January 1st issue of the journal SLEEP.

Will Longstreth Jr., MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Washington identified and assessed studies previously conducted by other researchers on the epidemiology of narcolepsy.

According to Longstreth, the body mass index, immune responses and stressful life events of a person are most thoroughly examined in the search for etiologic risk factors, but noted that such associations may reflect a consequence rather than a cause of disease.

Although he and his colleagues have produced the scenario that environmental exposures may be a contributing factor into a person’s development of narcolepsy, investigators must intensify the search for these exposures and focus on the first two decades of life, said Longstreth, adding that the identification of modifiable risk factors will help to prevent this disease.

Longstreth added that it is important to press on with further research into narcolepsy.

“The task of finding the etiology for narcolepsy will always depend on a partnership with the basic sciences, but epidemiologic studies can have an important role to play in elucidating how pathophysiologic mechanisms ultimately impact the public’s health,” said Longstreth.

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep uncontrollably during the day. It also includes features of dreaming that occur while awake. Other common symptoms include sleep paralysis, hallucinations and cataplexy. About one out of every 2,000 people is known to have narcolepsy. There does seem to be a genetic link to it. Narcolepsy affects the same number of men and women.

Those who think they might have narcolepsy, or another sleep disorder, are advised to consult with their primary care doctor, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Environmental Exposure May Cause Narcolepsy

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Environmental Exposure May Cause Narcolepsy. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/01/03/environmental-exposure-may-cause-narcolepsy/520.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.