“How do I describe something to them that I don’t even understand myself?” – Nicki

Advancements in the understanding of narcolepsy are happening. Be the first to know. Sign Up Now

Advancements in the understanding of narcolepsy are happening. Be the first to know.

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Recognizing Less Obvious Signs and Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy symptoms can be subtle, and patients are not always aware of them.1-4

Recognizing narcolepsy in the clinical setting can be difficult.1-3 People do not always report their symptoms because they may be embarrassed by them or unaware of their significance.3,6 Knowing what to look for when evaluating your patients for possible narcolepsy is important.

Evaluating patients for excessive daytime sleepiness

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Asking patients about cataplexy and other symptoms

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Talking to patients about the impact of narcolepsy

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  1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed.; 2014.
  2. Overeem S. The clinical features of cataplexy. In: Baumann CR, Bassetti CL, Scammell TE, eds. Narcolepsy: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Springer-Verlag New York; 2011:283-290.
  3. Thorpy MJ, Dauvilliers Y. Clinical and practical considerations in the pharmacologic management of narcolepsy. Sleep Med. 2015;16(1):9-18.
  4. Thorpy M, Morse AM. Reducing the clinical and socioeconomic burden of narcolepsy by earlier diagnosis and effective treatment. Sleep Med Clin. 2017;12(1):61-71.
  5. Overeem S, Reading P, Bassetti C. Narcolepsy. Sleep Med Clin. 2012;7:263-281.

Performance of routine tasks without awareness.

Sudden and brief loss of muscle strength or tone, often triggered by strong emotions. Narcolepsy with cataplexy is known as type 1 narcolepsy.

Complete collapse to the ground; all skeletal muscles are involved.

Only certain muscle groups are involved.

Biological clock mechanism that regulates the 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings. It is controlled in part by the SCN in the hypothalamus and is affected by the daily light-dark cycle.

Frequent inappropriate transitions between states of sleep and wakefulness.

The inability to stay awake and alert during the day.

A neurotransmitter that supports wakefulness. The TMN is the only source of histamine in the brain.

Vivid, realistic, and frightening dream-like events that occur when falling asleep.

A neuropeptide that supports wakefulness and helps control non-REM sleep and REM sleep.

Primary brain region for regulating the timing of sleep-wake states.

Unintentionally falling asleep due to excessive daytime sleepiness.

Brief, unintentional lapses into sleep or loss of awareness.

A validated objective measure of the tendency to fall asleep in quiet situations.

A state of sleep when muscle tone is decreased. Deep stages help to restore the body.

Overnight study used to diagnose sleep disorders by monitoring sleep stages and cycles to detect disruptions of a normal sleep pattern.

Normally occurs at night and includes vivid dreams. Also known as “paradoxical sleep.”

Daytime and evening habits and routines to help improve nighttime sleep.

Brief loss of control of voluntary muscles with retained awareness.

Sleep-onset REM period.

People with type 1 narcolepsy have low levels of hypocretin.

Narcolepsy without cataplexy; the cause of type 2 narcolepsy is unknown.