What is Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy – a disease of the central nervous system which led to a sleep disorder that is characterized by daytime attacks of irresistible sleepiness and sudden sleep in in the normal waking time, as well as bouts of cataplexy , that is, the sudden loss of muscle tone with clear consciousness, insomnia, sleep at night, appearances on falling asleep and awakening hallucinations . Sometimes there is a short-term paralysis of the body immediately after awakening.      

The reasons

The exact causes of narcolepsy are not well understood. According to a number of specialists, they are based on the lack of a biologically active substance of the brain, which re-regulates the processes of falling asleep and waking up. The factors that contribute to the development of this disease are often cranial trauma, severe debilitating infections, and severe fatigue. Sometimes the disease is associated with the function of the endocrine glands, especially with a violation of the pituitary gland. In some cases, narcolepsy is familial. Psychiatric and psychological problems are not the cause of narcolepsy.


  • severe sleepiness during the daytime;
  • cataplexy – a sudden loss of muscle strength;
  • hallucinations;
  • sleep paralysis;
  • disturbances in the nocturnal phase of sleep;
  • automatic behavior;
  • blurred, double vision.

The first symptoms usually appear in a previously healthy person in adolescence or youth and persist for life. Narcolepsy symptoms can appear all at once or develop gradually over the years:

  • Irresistible daytime sleepiness plus “violent” falling asleep that occurs at any time (reading a book, watching TV, while talking, driving a car). Such drowsiness occurs in a person after a night’s sleep. Patients often describe that they feel tired, apathy, they are too lazy to do something, there is no energy. You can resist falling asleep only for a short time, but if a person falls asleep, then it is easy to wake him up. The number of these attacks per day can be very different, and each of them usually lasts about an hour or less. Upon awakening, the person may feel rested, but are able to fall asleep again after a few minutes and sleep all day. With such drowsiness, it is difficult for him to work, study, the person loses concentration of attention, memory, motivation is lost, irritability increases.
  • Complete disturbance of night sleep (manifested mainly by very frequent awakenings, insomnia).
  • Hallucinations are unreal, frightening, in most cases, visions or sensations, often of a threatening nature, when falling asleep and waking up.
  • Cataplexy, i.e. sudden loss of muscle tone, usually accompanied by strong emotions such as laughter, rage or excitement, surprise. During seizures, which can last from a few seconds to half an hour, a person is unable to hold his head, feels weakness in his hands and knees, which often leads to a fall.
  • Sleep paralysis, i.e. a state in which, upon waking up, a person quite adequately assesses the environment, but at the same time does not control his body at all, he is unable to move or speak.
  • Automatic behavior is the patient performing normal actions without realizing what he was doing . Sometimes a person can actually fall asleep and continue the activity, but not remember this after waking up. Automatic behavior can be a symptom of narcolepsy and is threatening if a person performs potentially dangerous activities, such as driving a car or cooking.

People with narcolepsy often report symptoms such as double vision, inability to concentrate, memory loss, and headaches. Children with this disease tend to lag behind their peers in physical development and academics. Adults may not be able to carry out daily chores at work.

If you experience any of the above symptoms of narcolepsy and think that these symptoms affect your ability to drive transport, study at school, perform normal daily work, or if these symptoms affect your social activities and personal relationships, then you you need to contact a specialist at the Center for Neurology and Sleep Medicine to confirm the diagnosis.

At the sleep center, a specialist will carefully analyze your medical history and conduct a complete physical examination. If the doctor suspects narcolepsy, you will be offered an examination. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the disease is usually conducted two tests: polysomnography with electroencephalogram (EEG) and multiple test latency to sleep (MSLT-test).


The symptoms of narcolepsy can usually be controlled or alleviated so that those affected are less likely to experience the symptoms and can lead a reasonably normal life. If you are diagnosed with narcolepsy, your treatment plan will include several components: medications, behavioral therapy and the organization of certain events in the patient’s environment.


The types, number, and severity of symptoms determine which drugs should be used to treat narcolepsy. Only a doctor can prescribe drugs that can effectively control excess daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, hallucinations, and sleep disturbances.

Behavioral therapy.

Treating narcolepsy will likely require not only the use of medication, but also the organization of events that can dramatically improve your sense of well-being.

  • Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule. Go to bed and stand at approximately the same time every day.
  • Regular short naps of sleep may be helpful.
  • Be careful when performing activities that can be dangerous, such as driving a car or cooking; try to plan your schedule so that you are vigilant at this time.
  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations for medication carefully. Tell him immediately about any changes or problems with your medications.

It is difficult to control narcolepsy if your family, acquaintances and coworkers do not understand the essence of the disease. Daytime sleepiness can be mistaken for laziness, depression, or loss of ability. Signs of cataplexy or dreaming while awake may be mistakenly considered psychiatric problems. Understanding the symptoms of narcolepsy can relieve fear, shame, anger, depression.

Therefore, if you suffer from narcolepsy, then your doctor or you yourself should talk with your family members and reassure them that your behavior is not deliberate or mentally abnormal. Family support is an important step in coping with illness.

Tell your employers about the disease. Providing certain conditions at work will allow you to remain a profitable employee. If narcolepsy is interfering with your job, then consider other available sources of income. If your child suffers from narcolepsy, make sure his teachers know about the disorder. Small adjustments in the classroom can have a huge impact on your child’s self-esteem and ability to get a good education.

Narcolepsy prognosis

Narcolepsy is a condition that occurs over an extended period of time. Symptoms of this condition can vary in severity throughout a person’s life. Symptoms usually worsen over time or become stable. However, drowsiness can become a permanent condition that requires medication. In some cases, cataplexy and other symptoms may diminish or disappear over time.

Various factors influence the patient’s symptoms, including:

  • irregular sleep and wake schedule;
  • the use of substances that affect the central nervous system;
  • brain infections;
  • sleep disorders such as sleep apnea syndrome, periodic limb movement syndrome, etc. 

To improve the quality of life, reduce the symptoms of the disease, you need to regularly visit a doctor, follow a clear sleep and wake schedule, and use the medications prescribed by the doctor.

A doctor who specializes in sleep disorders can recognize the symptoms of narcolepsy, evaluate them, and prescribe treatment.

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