What Causes Narcolepsy And How Is It Treated


A sleep disorder called narcolepsy makes people feel sleepy all the time during the day. People with narcolepsy have trouble staying awake for long stretches of time. They snooze off without warning. Their daily life may be severely impacted by this.

Narcolepsy can produce cataplexy, which is an abrupt loss of muscle tone. This can be triggered by strong emotions, especially laughter. Narcolepsy comes in two different kinds. Type 2 narcolepsy affects the majority of people who do not suffer cataplexy.

A persistent condition with no known cure is narcolepsy. On the other hand, medications and lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms. Support from others, including family, friends, coworkers, and teachers, can help people cope with the disease.


During the initial years of the illness, narcolepsy symptoms could get worse. They go on endlessly after that. These are what they are:

Excessive sleepiness during the day.

People with narcolepsy experience unexpected sleepiness. It could happen while you’re working on a task or while you’re bored. For instance, you might be engaged in a conversation with friends or work when you abruptly nod off. The chance of falling asleep at the wheel is very high. You could nod off for a few seconds or up to 30 minutes. After waking up, you frequently feel energized, yet you quickly go back to sleep.

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Additionally, you can detect a decline in your level of focus and alertness during the day. The first symptom to appear is typically daytime tiredness. When you’re sleepy, it’s hard to concentrate and carry out daily tasks.

A sudden decline in muscle tone.

The medical word for this ailment is cataplexy. Speech slurring or complete muscle paralysis could result. Symptoms may last for several minutes.

Cataplexy cannot be controlled. It is brought on by intense feelings. Positive emotions frequently trigger cataplexy. Laughter or excitement could set off symptoms. However, fury, surprise, and fear can all cause a loss of muscular tone. For instance, you might find that you automatically sag your head when you chuckle. Alternately, your knees can suddenly start to weaken, sending you flying.

Some narcoleptics only experience one or two cataplexy episodes a year. Some people have several instances each day. Narcolepsy does not always cause these symptoms to manifest.

Sleep-related paralysis.


A typical narcolepsy symptom is sleep paralysis. If you have sleep paralysis, you are unable to move or talk when you are about to fall asleep or wake up. It normally only lasts a few seconds or minutes and is fleeting. But it can be terrifying. It’s possible that you are awake and will remember what is happening later.


People who are experiencing sleep paralysis could see things that aren’t there. Even in the absence of sleep paralysis, hallucinations might happen. They are known as hypnagogic hallucinations if they happen when you are about to fall asleep. They are known as hypnopompic hallucinations if they startle you awake. For instance, you might believe that a stranger is in your bedroom. When you start dreaming, you could not be fully asleep, so these hallucinations could be frightening and vivid.

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Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep changes.

Dreams mostly happen during REM sleep. Usually 60 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, REM sleep starts. However, narcoleptic patients usually enter REM sleep more faster. They often begin REM sleep 15 minutes after falling asleep. Additionally, REM sleep can happen at any time of day.

Additional characteristics for Narcolepsy

Patients with narcolepsy may also experience additional sleep problems. They can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which causes nighttime breathing pauses and starts. When people act out their dreams, REM sleep behavior disorder happens. When people have trouble sleeping or staying asleep, it is known as insomnia.

When should you visit a physician?

If your excessive daytime sleepiness affects your personal or professional life, speak with your doctor.


Your symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, or a sudden decrease of muscular tone, may lead your doctor to investigate narcolepsy. You’ll almost probably be sent to a sleep specialist by your doctor.


Based on the following factors, a sleep expert will most likely identify narcolepsy and assess its severity:

Your sleeping habits. You’ll most likely complete the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. The scale employs brief questions to assess your level of tiredness.

records of your sleep. For a week or two, you might be requested to keep a sleep diary. This enables your healthcare professional to assess any potential links between your sleep habits and level of alertness.

You might be asked to wear an actigraph by your doctor. This item is worn like a watch on the wrist. It keeps track of both active and idle time. It provides a hazy sense of your sleeping patterns.

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apolysomnography, or sleep examination. By applying flat metal discs known as electrodes to your scalp, this test can detect impulses while you’re asleep. For this test, you must spend the night at a healthcare institution. The examination picks up respiration patterns, pulse rate, and brain waves. In addition, it monitors your leg and eye movements.

several tests for sleep delay. You may find out how long it takes you to fall asleep during the day using this test. You’ll be expected to take four or five naps while at a sleep center. The recommended snooze interval is two hours. Specialists will keep an eye on sleep patterns. Patients with narcolepsy have rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and fall asleep easily.

a spinal tap, also referred to as a lumbar puncture, and genetic testing. Your risk of developing type 1 narcolepsy may occasionally be determined by a genetic test. In this situation, your sleep doctor can suggest that you have a lumbar puncture to measure the amount of hypocretin present in your spinal fluid. Only specialized facilities are utilized for this test.

These tests can help you rule out additional symptoms that could be the cause. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by sleep loss, the use of sedative drugs, and sleep apnea.


There is no known treatment for narcolepsy, but you can control the symptoms with medicine and lifestyle changes.

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