Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects your ability to wake and sleep. People with narcolepsy have excessive, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. They may also suddenly fall asleep at any time, during any type of activity.
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. Sometimes narcolepsy can be accompanied by a sudden loss of muscle tone (catalepsy) that can be triggered by a strong emotion. Narcolepsy that occurs with catalepsy is called narcolepsy of type 1. Narcolepsy that occurs without catalepsy is known as narcolepsy type 2.
In REM (rapid eye movement)sleep, we can dream and have muscle paralysis, which explains some of the symptoms of narcolepsy. Those symptoms may include:
- Excessive day time sleepiness(EDS): In general, EDS makes it harder to do everyday activities, even if you got enough sleep at night. The lack of energy can make it hard to concentrate. You have memory lapses and feel depressed or exhausted.
- Catalepsy: This can cause problems ranging from slurred speech to total body collapse, depending on the muscles involved. It’s often triggered by intense emotions such as surprise, laughter, or anger.
- Hallucinations: These delusions can happen at any time and are often vivid and frightening. They’re mostly visual, but any of the other senses can be involved. If they happen as you’re falling asleep, they’re called hypnagogic hallucinations. If they happen when you’re waking up, they’re called hypnopompic hallucinations.
- Sleep paralysis: You may be unable to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. These episodes usually last a few seconds to several minutes.
- Disrupted sleep: You might have a hard time staying asleep at night because of things like vivid dreams, breathing problems, or body movements.
Narcolepsy-Related Conditions and Behaviors
Some people with narcolepsy also have related problems, including:
- Periodic limb movement disorder(PLMD): Your leg muscles move without your control many times during the night.
- Sleep apnea: Your breathing often stops and starts while you sleep.
- Automatic behavior: You fall asleep during a regular activity like driving, walking, or talking. You continue the activity while asleep and wake up with no memory of what you did.
There are only a few known risk factors for narcolepsy, including:
- Age. Narcolepsy typically begins in people between 10 and 30 years old.
- Family history. Your risk of narcolepsy is 20 to 40 times higher if you have a family member who has narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a chronic condition for which there’s no cure. However, medications and lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. Support from others — family, friends, employers, teachers — can help you cope with narcolepsy.