SYMPTOMS OF NARCOLEPSY
The most common symptom of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). This symptom is often the first to appear usually between the ages of 10 and 20 years old. Excessive daytime sleepiness occurs independently of the amount of rest you get at night. Patients can experience mental fogginess, lack of energy and concentration, a depressed mood and extreme exhaustion. EDS may begin to interfere with a person’s daily activities. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include:
- Hallucinations – People who suffer with narcolepsy can experience frightening and vivid hallucinations during times when they are falling asleep (hypnagogic) or waking from sleep (hypnopompic)
- Cataplexy is the loss of voluntary muscle control during a person’s wake cycle such that they are completely conscious of the event, but unable to control it. Cataplexy can range from drooping eyelids and slurred speech to complete loss of muscle tone causing a person to fall and be unable to move or speak. Cataplexy can be triggered by intense emotions such as surprise, fear, anger or stress and anxiety
- Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking. A person in sleep paralysis is conscious of their surroundings, but feels completely paralyzed because their body is still in the REM cycle of sleep. Sleep paralysis usually lasts a few seconds to a few minutes with no permanent effects
Diagnosing narcolepsy involves participating in overnight sleep study testing to ensure there is not another condition affecting sleep as well as a daytime nap test (called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test) that objectively measures your sleepiness throughout the day. The data from these two tests can confirm the diagnosis of narcolepsy.