Narcolepsy Sleep Disorder Treatment

What is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is defined as excessive drowsiness during the day with a tendency to sleep at inappropriate times. The sleep episodes of narcolepsy are sometimes brought on by highly stressful situations and are not completely relieved by any amount of sleep. Although narcolepsy is an uncommon condition, its impact on a person's life can be serious and - if not recognized and appropriately managed – can be debilitating. Recent advances in medicine, technology, and pharmacology (the study of the effects of drugs) are helping healthcare providers recognize and treat this condition. A cure for narcolepsy has not yet been found, but most people with this disorder can lead nearly normal lives if the condition is properly treated.

Narcolepsy Symptoms

There are many different symptoms associated with narcolepsy. The most common symptoms of narcolepsy are:

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)*

EDS is usually the first symptom of narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy often report feeling easily tired or sleepy all the time. They tend to fall asleep not only in situations in which many people normally feel sleepy (after meals or during a dull lecture), but also when most people would remain awake (while watching a movie, writing a letter, or driving).


Attacks of cataplexy (sudden, brief losses of muscle control) are sometimes the first symptom of narcolepsy, but more often develop months or years after the onset of sleepiness. Cataplexy can be mild-such as a brief feeling of weakness in the knees-or it may cause a complete physical collapse, resulting in a fall. A person having such an attack is fully awake and knows what is happening. Cataplexy is usually triggered by strong emotions, such as laughter, anger, or surprise.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a brief loss of muscle control that occurs when a person is falling asleep or waking up. The person may be somewhat aware of the surroundings but is unable to move or speak. Sleep paralysis, unlike cataplexy, usually disappears when the person is touched.


Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid dreamlike experiences that occur when a person is drowsy. The hallucinations may involve disturbing images or sounds, such as of strange animals or prowlers. These can be frightening because the person is partly awake but has no control over the events. The dreams can also be upsetting if they are mistaken for hallucinations or delusions of mental illness.

Automatic Behaviors

Automatic behaviors are routine tasks performed by a person who is not consciously controlling the activity. Sometimes a person may actually fall asleep and continue an activity, but not remember it after waking up. Automatic behaviors can be dangerous if a person is involved in a potentially hazardous activity, such as driving or cooking.

Disturbed Nighttime Sleep

This symptom often occurs in people with narcolepsy. A person who has trouble staying awake during the day may also have trouble staying asleep at night. The problem of daytime sleepiness is made worse by the many nighttime awakenings. Other symptoms reported by people with narcolepsy include double vision, an inability to concentrate, and memory loss.

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