Narcolepsy and Sleep

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of this disorder is reflected in studies showing that narcoleptic patients are more accident-prone and have difficulty with interpersonal relationships.

Researchers believe that narcolepsy may be caused by a deficiency in hypocretin production in the brain. The results of one recent study, in which hypocretin was directly administered to the brain, suggest that using hypocretin derivatives may be an effective way to prevent cataplexy and improve wakefulness.


The main symptoms associated with narcolepsy are:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness - this is usually the first symptom to appear in people who have narcolepsy. Unless they're being treated for the disorder, the need to sleep can be overwhelming for narcolepsy patients: someone who has narcolepsy is prone to falling asleep while engaged in conversation, driving, eating dinner, or at other inappropriate times. The sleepiness occurs in spite of a full night's sleep and may persist throughout the day.
  • Cataplexy - cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone, usually triggered by emotional stimuli such as laughter, surprise, or anger. It may involve all muscles and result in collapse. It may only affect certain muscle groups and result in slurred speech, buckling of the knees, or weakness in the arms. Consciousness is maintained throughout the episode but the patient is usually unable to speak.
  • Hypnogogic hallucinations - during transition from wakefulness to sleep, the patient has bizarre, often frightening dream-like experiences that incorporate his or her real environment.
  • Sleep paralysis – a temporary inability to move during sleep-wake transitions. Sleep paralysis may last for a few seconds to several minutes and may accompany hypnagogic hallucinations.
  • Disturbed nocturnal sleep – waking up repeatedly throughout the night.
  • Leg jerks, nightmares, and restlessness.


In order to make a determination of narcolepsy, your doctor will ask you for a complete medical and family history and may refer you to a sleep center for evaluation. You should keep a sleep diary as well as a record of your symptoms and their severity for at least a week or two. Bring this information with you when you visit your doctor.

There is currently no widely-accepted cure for narcolepsy