Narcolepsy

See us if you have any of these narcolepsy symptoms:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): EDS interferes with normal activities on a daily basis, whether or not a person with narcolepsy has sufficient sleep at night. People with EDS report mental cloudiness, a lack of energy and concentration, memory lapses, a depressed mood, and/or extreme exhaustion.
  • Loss of voluntary muscle control (Cataplexy): Cataplexy can lead to feelings of weakness and a loss of voluntary muscle control. Effects of cataplexy can range from slurred speech to total body collapse, depending on the muscles involved. Cataplexy is often triggered by intense emotions such as surprise, laughter, or anger.
  • Hallucinations: The content of these vivid and often frightening experiences is primarily visual, but any of the other senses can be involved. Hypnagogic hallucinations accompany sleep onset and hypnopompic hallucinations occur while awake.
  • Sleep paralysis: Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. Episodes can last a few seconds to several minutes. After an episode, full speech and movement return quickly.

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects your ability to stay awake. People with narcolepsy experience extreme daytime sleepiness and often uncontrollable episodes of sleep during the day. Sleep attacks can occur during any activity at any time of day.

People with narcolepsy enter into deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep very quickly. This is the part of sleep where we experience dreams and muscle paralysis, which explains some of the common symptoms of narcolepsy. 

Treatment

There is no cure for narcolepsy, but its most disabling symptoms (EDS and abnormal REM sleep symptoms including cataplexy) can usually be controlled with drug treatment. Sleepiness is treated with stimulants and abnormal REM sleep symptoms are treated with antidepressants.

Xyrem is a drug used to treat patients who suffer from narcolepsy with cataplexy by helping them get a better night’s sleep so they’re less sleepy during the day. Xyrem is not a cure for narcolepsy, but is effective at controlling cataplexy symptoms.

There are also many lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce symptoms, including:

  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and heavy evening meals
  • Short daytime naps
  • Regular exercise and set meal schedules

As sleep specialists, the doctors at PAR are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.