Narcolepsy and Sleep Attacks

For some people, no amount of rest seems to satisfy their body’s frequent and irresistible need to sleep. They can fall asleep while at work, during a conversation with a friend or even when driving a car. A “sleep attack” can last a few seconds or more than 30 minutes. This condition of excessive daytime sleepiness can be a symptom of a disorder known as narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder affecting a region of the central nervous system that regulates sleep and wakefulness. As the dreaming stage of sleep (REM sleep) interrupts daytime wakefulness, a series of symptoms commonly appears. Excessive daytime sleepiness is often the first sign to emerge which slowly develops over several months or years. Cataplexy is another characteristic, marked by a temporary decrease or loss of muscle control. These attacks are sudden and can be brought on by strong emotions like laughter, anger or surprise.

Common Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Vivid dreaming when barely asleep
  • Sudden muscular weakness
  • Sleepy when excited/angry
  • Naps are refreshing
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Sleep paralysis

Most people with narcolepsy experience vivid dreamlike images called hypnagogic hallucinations. They frequently appear as a person is drifting off to sleep or immediately upon awakening. The hallucinations can be mundane or nightmarish and often cause great anxiety.

During the transition into sleep or wakefulness, sleep paralysis causes a narcoleptic to be unable to move or speak. At times only the breathing muscles are active, though it may be difficult to breathe deeply. People with narcolepsy can also experience disturbed nighttime sleep and automatic behavior.

Narcolepsy is not as rare as once believed. It affects nearly one in every thousand people. Symptoms typically begin to appear between the onset of puberty and age 25. Although it cannot be cured, its symptoms can be controlled with proper behavioral and medical therapy.

For more information contact
Narcolepsy And Sleep Disorders
PO Box 51113 Palo Alto, CA 94303
Phone: 1-800-829-1933