Narcolepsy

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder. It is a lifelong disease of the central nervous
system.

Narcolepsy causes excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness, even after getting
plenty of nighttime sleep. If you have narcolepsy, you are likely to become drowsy or to
fall asleep at inappropriate times and places. These sleep attacks may happen with or
without warning.

You
may have repeated attacks in a single day. The drowsiness may last a long time.
Nighttime sleep may be split up, and you may wake up often.

What causes narcolepsy?

The cause of narcolepsy is not known. It involves the body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Narcolepsy is a genetic disorder. It is caused by a low amount of a brain chemical that helps neurons talk to each other.  

What are the symptoms of
narcolepsy?

These are the most common symptoms of narcolepsy. But symptoms may differ a bit in each
person. Symptoms may include:

  • Extra
    daytime sleepiness (EDS).
    An overwhelming desire to sleep at inappropriate
    times.
  • Cataplexy. A sudden loss of muscle control ranging from slight weakness to
    total collapse. This most often occurs during times of strong emotion.
  • Sleep
    paralysis.
    Being unable to talk or move for about 1 minute when falling
    asleep or waking up.
  • Hypnagogic
    hallucinations.
    Vivid and often scary dreams and sounds reported when falling
    asleep.
  • Disrupted sleep.

Other
symptoms include:

  • Automatic behavior. Doing routine tasks without conscious awareness of doing so, and
    often without memory of it.
  • Waking
    up often

You
may have other problems as you cope with this condition. These include:

  • Feelings of intense fatigue and continual lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Trouble
    concentrating and memorizing
  • Vision
    (focusing) problems
  • Eating
    binges
  • Weak
    limbs
  • Trouble
    handling alcohol

How is narcolepsy
diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and do a physical exam. Lab
tests to confirm diagnosis and plan treatment may include:

  • Overnight
    polysomnogram (PSG). 
    A sleep specialist will monitor you during an entire
    night of sleep. 
  • Multiple
    sleep latency test (MSLT).
    This test, done during the day, after a full
    night’s sleep, measures when you fall asleep and how quickly rapid eye movement (REM)
    sleep occurs.