About Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neuroligical sleep disorder characterized by irregular patterns in REM sleep and disruptions in the normal sleep/wake cycle.  It is thought that the disorder affects as many as 1 in 2,000 Americans, though many are undiagnosed.

Symptoms of narcolepsy include:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS).  Everyone gets tired, but those with narcolepsy feel tired throughout the day even after a full night of sleep.
  • Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone while awake, resulting in the inability to move. Strong emotions, such as laughter or anger, will often bring on cataplexy. Most cataplexy attacks go unnoticed. Not everyone with narcolepsy has cataplexy.
  • Dream-like hallucinations upon falling asleep or waking up.
  • Sleep Paralysis – the inability to move when falling asleep or waking up.

The cause of narcolepsy is not known.  Narcolepsy With Cataplexy (N+C) is thought to be caused by an autoimmune disorder that has destoryed hypocretin cells.  Hypocretin is responsible for regulating wakefullness and REM sleep.  People with N+C often have very low levels of this neurochemical.

There is no cure for narcolepsy at this time.  Treatments include medications in the evening to help regulate sleep cycles, and medications during the day to promote wakefullness.  Short, 15-20 minute naps can also be taken throughout the day if possible to manage symptoms.

For more information about narcolepsy, visit www.narcolepsynetwork.org