Narcolepsy 2018-02-21T16:26:15+00:00


Are you a night owl? Not getting enough sleep? Do you sleep too much?

What is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that can cause someone to experience extreme sleepiness during the day.

They can have sudden uncontrolled bouts of narcolepsy where they can fall asleep talking, eating, or during another activity.

Sleep Cycle

Typically, after about 90 minutes of various lighter sleep stages; we fall into a deeper sleep called rapid eye movement sleep (REM). With people with narcolepsy, however, the REM stage of sleep can occur immediately during the sleep cycle and also periodically during the day. More so, the muscles in our body can experience a sort or paralysis during REM sleep.

Narcolepsy typically begins during the ages of 15-25, but it can happen at any age. As it becomes hard to stay awake for long periods of time, narcolepsy can become very disruptive to a daily routine.

Narcolepsy is not related to fainting, seizures, or depression, despite that common misconception.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Sudden loss of muscle tone: This can be seen from slurred speech to complete loss of muscle tone. Knees may buckle when you laugh or your head may suddenly droop. This symptom may happen to some extreme cases, several times a day, or as little as one or two times a year.
  • Sleep Paralysis: This condition can happen just before falling asleep or just as someone wakes up. Though it may just last a minute, it can be very frightening when someone has just awakened and becomes aware that they cannot move!
  • May experience symptoms from other sleep disorders: Including sleep apnea and insomnia
  • Automatic behavior during narcoleptic episodes: This could someone falling asleep while performing a task, such as typing, and they may briefly continue that motion once they’ve fallen asleep. Oftentimes, they can’t remember how long they have been asleep once they wake up.

Cause of Narcolepsy & The Role of Brain Chemicals

The cause of narcolepsy is unknown, although genetics may play a factor. The brain chemical that helps regulate wakefulness and REM sleep is called Hypocretin. People with narcolepsy have low levels of this chemical, which is found in their spinal fluid. Research is less definitive on exactly why someone has less Hypocretin, but is thought to be associated with an autoimmune reaction.


The field of sleep medicine is relatively new, and it’s important to find a sleep doctor with the skills and experience necessary to develop a treatment plan that works for you.

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