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Narcolepsy is also referred to as excessive, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, or hypersomnia. This uncommon sleep disorder causes overwhelming drowsiness that makes you fall asleep at inappropriate times in inappropriate places. Narcolepsy is defined as a chronic neurological disorder, which affects your brain’s ability to control circadian rhythms or sleep-wake cycles. Narcolepsy sufferers often feel rested after waking, but very sleepy throughout much of the day. They may also experience uneven and interrupted sleep patterns.

Narcolepsy Q & A

What are some signs of narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that involves dysfunctional sleep-wake cycles. Signs and symptoms of narcolepsy may include the following:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness – an overwhelming desire to fall asleep throughout the day that disrupts a person’s ability to function. This occurs despite having had a good night’s sleep. EDS is typically the first indicator of a problem.
  • Cataplexy – sudden loss of muscle tone, causing feelings of weakness and loss of voluntary muscle control; symptoms may include slurred speech or total body collapse
  • Hallucinations – seemingly real and sometimes frightening visual images are experiencing when falling asleep, waking, or while sleeping. May also involve other senses.
  • Disrupted nocturnal sleep – difficulty falling asleep at night due to periodic leg movements, insomnia, vivid dreams, and/or talking during sleep
  • Obesity – individuals with narcolepsy often report sudden weight gain

How do you get narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy can affect virtually anyone in the world—male or females of all ages and races. Sometimes, people may experience symptoms during childhood, but onset typically occurs later in life.

The cause of this condition is unknown. Scientists have linked narcolepsy with certain genes that are responsible for controlling the sleep-wake cycle. The condition has also been linked to brain abnormalities in the regions that regulate REM sleep.

How is narcolepsy diagnosed and treated?

Our skilled physicians can diagnose narcolepsy with a comprehensive medical history interview allowing you to describe your symptoms and lifestyle. A physical examination may be completed to rule out other possible conditions. Then, your sleep specialists will conduct a series of tests in the sleep clinic to confirm the diagnosis of narcolepsy.

Treatment of narcolepsy revolves around making lifestyle changes in addition to taking prescribed medications. Your unique symptoms and medical history will help direct which treatment plan your doctor recommends. Keep in mind that you may have to try several medications before arriving at the one that works best for you.

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