Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by disturbances in sleep patterns and the regulation of wakefulness. People with narcolepsy often experience excessive daytime sleepiness and may have sudden, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day. These episodes can occur in inappropriate situations, such as during conversations or while driving, and are referred to as “narcoleptic attacks.”
The symptoms of narcolepsy can vary from person to person, but the four most common symptoms are:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): People with narcolepsy often feel an overwhelming urge to sleep during the day, even after a full night’s sleep. EDS can make it difficult to stay awake at work, school, or while driving.
- Cataplexy: Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone that can be triggered by strong emotions such as laughter, anger, or surprise. Cataplexy can cause anything from a slight drooping of the head to a complete collapse.
- Sleep paralysis: Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak when falling asleep or waking up. It can last for a few seconds or a few minutes and can be very frightening.
- Hypnagogic hallucinations: Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid dreams or hallucinations that occur when falling asleep. They are usually harmless but can be disturbing.
Other common symptoms of narcolepsy include:
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
- Memory problems
- Automatic behaviors (doing things without realizing it)
- Disturbed sleep at night
- Difficulty controlling emotions
Narcolepsy is a chronic condition, but there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. If you think you may have narcolepsy, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.