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Narcolepsy is excessive sleepiness & spontaneous naps that occur far more frequently than normal

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is the sudden, uncontrollable urge to sleep, even in in appropriate conditions and environments. The exact cause of narcolepsy is unknown. There is no cure, although symptoms can be controlled. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system, which controls sleep and wakefulness. It occassionally runs in families.

Four main symptoms

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Cataplexy (sudden, brief losses of muscle control, triggered by a strong emotion)
  • Sleep paralysis (the inability to move when waking up or falling asleep)
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid dreams that are difficult to distinguish from reality)

Additional symptoms

  • Poor memory
  • Dreaming during naps
  • Inability to concentrate
   
  • Poor-quality sleep at night
  • Frequent, irresistible urges to sleep
  • Automatic behavior (performing routine tasks while not consciously aware of the activity) 

Who gets narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy occasionally runs in families. However, many people with narcolepsy do not have relatives with the disorder. Some researchers believe certain genes, when combined with lifestyle factors, cause the disorder.

What causes narcolepsy?

Two tests are used to diagnose narcolepsy: a polysomnogram and a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). During a polysomnogram, the patient spends the night in a sleep laboratory. Small electrodes are attached to the patient’s skin to record brain waves, muscle activity, respiration, heart rate and eye movements. The MSLT takes place the following day. With some electrodes still attached, the patient takes five 20-minute naps at two-hour intervals.  The purpose of the polysomnogram and MSLT is to evaluate the patient’s sleep patterns, specifically REM (dreaming) sleep. In people with narcolepsy, REM sleep begins much sooner after falling asleep. With these tests, a sleep specialist can determine whether a patient’s symptoms are caused by narcolepsy or by another sleep disorder.

Treatments

Medical treatment – Stimulant medications may be used to increase alertness. Antidepressants may be used to suppress REM and control frequent cataplexy.

Behavioral treatment – Following a regular sleep/wake schedule, taking naps, being cautious when driving or undertaking other dangerous activities, management of your environment, educating friends, family and employers on your disorder and joining a support group are methods used to help treat narcolepsy. If your child suffers from narcolepsy, educating his or her teachers about the disorder can help.

Don’t let sleep disorders ruin your life. Get back to your life with our help. Call Margaret Mike, MD Sleep & Wake Center at 972–981-7436 and learn how today’s advanced care options could potentially save your life. For your convenience, you can also use our online form to schedule your appointment with sleep doctor Margaret Mike today! Our narcolepsy patients come to us from Frisco (Denton County), Plano (Collin County), Bedford, Colleyville and Grapevine (Tarrant County) in DFW Metroplex, TX. Physicians employed by Texas Health Physician Group practice independently, and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Resources hospitals.