Narcolepsy is a disabling sleep disorder affecting more than 1 in 2,000 Americans. Many individuals with this disorder go undiagnosed or treated. Narcolepsy is characterized by a permanent and overwhelming feeling of sleepiness and or fatigue. Other symptoms consist of abnormalities during dreaming, such as dream-like hallucinations and sleep paralysis (a sensation of feeling unable to move, usually immediately following a dream).
Narcolepsy can be very disabling. Studies show that even treated narcoleptic patients are often psychosocially impaired in the area of work, leisure and personal relationships. Due to the constant fatigue, those with narcolepsy may be prone to vehicular and other accidents.
Signs & Symptoms
The main symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness and abnormal REM (dreaming) sleep. Other symptoms often associated with this disorder are sleep paralysis, hypngogic hallucinations and cataplexy. Cataplexy is characterized by a sudden episode of muscle weakness triggered by emotions. Typically, the patient's knees will buckle and may give way upon laughing, surprise and or anger. In severe cases, the patient might collapse and become completely paralyzed from a few seconds, up to several minutes.
Narcolepsy can be diagnosed using overnight and day PSG (polysomnogram) testing. Diagnosis of narcolepsy is easiest when all the symptoms of the disorder are present. These tests are performed at a sleep disorders center. Typically the testing will begin with an overnight PSG and then followed by a series of 20 minute naps the next day.
Narcolepsy is commonly treated using specific medications. Patients with narcolepsy can greatly benefit from medical treatment, but not be cured. Sleepiness is usually treated with an amphetamine-like stimulant, while the symptoms of abnormal REM sleep (cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations) may be treated using antidepressant compounds.
Disclaimer: All the information provided on this web site is for educational use only and is not intended to replace medical advice and or guidance by a sleep specialist.