What is Narcolepsy?

Are you wondering what is narcolepsy or perhaps concerned that you or some one you know may have the symptoms of this sleep disorder? 

Narcolepsy Definition

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system characterized by the brain's' inability to control sleep-wake cycles."


What that means is that right in the middle of the day a person feels like they have to sleep - not just a feeling of drowsiness - but an overwhelming need to sleep. The daytime sleep may last just a few seconds or for several minutes.

Narcolepsy Symptoms

Narcolepsy symptoms can be alarming and frustrating to the patient and to family members, friends, or co-workers. A person with narcolepsy can fall asleep anytime - in the middle of an office meeting, while driving, during a conversation or right in the middle of dinner. It is an uncontrollable urge to sleep.

See how it is different from that drowsy feeling you get when you finally sit down and watch TV or while sitting on the train on the way home from work?

This sleep disorder is often accompanied by other disturbing symptoms such as sudden weakness called cataplexy. There is a loss of muscle tone and the inability to control one's muscles. 

A temporary paralysis involves the inability to talk or to even move.

Other symptoms include being tired, feeling depressed, and/or exhausted. Mental clarity and the ability to focus and concentrate is lacking even with adequate sleep.

Narcolepsy Diagnosis

A consult with a sleep specialist followed by specialized testing at a sleep disorders clinic confirms this diagnosis. A patient is often asked to keep a  sleep journal, as well, for one to two weeks documenting day time episodes and night time hours of sleep.

Go from What is Narcolepsy to Sleep Disorders List

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