Symptoms usually start during the teenage years. Onset may range from 5-50 years old. Symptoms may worsen with age. They may improve in women after menopause.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Daytime involuntary sleep attacks
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Sudden loss of muscle tone without loss of consciousness
- Temporary paralysis while awakening or falling asleep
- Frightening mental images that appear while awakening or as one falls asleep
- Memory problems
Symptoms may be triggered by:
- A monotonous environment
- A warm environment
- Eating a large meal
- Strong emotions
|Brainstem—Area of Brain Related to Alertness|
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You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If narcolepsy is suspected, you may be referred to a specialist in sleep disorders.
Tests may include:
- Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT)—measures the onset of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which occurs earlier than normal in narcolepsy
General sleep lab study—often done the night before an MSLT; helps to rule out other causes of daytime sleepiness by monitoring:
- Brain waves
- Eye movements
- Muscle activity
- Heart beat
- Blood oxygen levels
- Total nighttime sleep
- Amount of nighttime REM sleep
- Time of onset of REM sleep
- Degree of daytime sleepiness
- A questionnaire regarding your degree of daytime sleepiness
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Narcolepsy Network http://www.narcolepsynetwork.org
National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org
Better Sleep Council of Canada http://www.bettersleep.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Bhat A, El Sohl AA. Management of narcolepsy. Expert Opin Pharmacotherapy. 2008;9(10):1721-1733.
Dauvilliers Y, Arnulf I, et al. Narcolepsy with cataplexy. Lancet. 2007;369:499-511.
Feldman NT. Narcolepsy. Southern Medical Journal. 2003;96:277-282.
Narcolepsy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116132/Narcolepsy . Updated January 4, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/narcolepsy/detail%5Fnarcolepsy.htm. Updated April 2016. Accessed June 20, 2016.
Narcolepsy: new understanding of irresistible sleep. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2001.