“Narcolepsy takes your world and sort of flips it upside down.” – Scott

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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Living Every Day With Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy symptoms are not always obvious but can have a big impact on day-to-day life.

Narcolepsy and its impact are often misunderstood. Some movies and TV shows portray narcolepsy in a humorous way. But narcolepsy is a serious disorder that can have a big impact on a person’s life. Even less obvious symptoms can be significant, and people living with the disorder can feel isolated, lose confidence, or feel depressed.

Managing day-to-day life with narcolepsy is possible.

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Support is available to help people living with narcolepsy manage their symptoms.

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At School or Work

Sleepiness may cause people to have poor memory and difficulty concentrating. Because of this, they may not advance in their careers as quickly as they like, and may risk getting fired for poor performance. Staying awake or alert through meetings or class may be a struggle, and talking about symptoms to employers or teachers is not always easy.

Daily Activities

People living with narcolepsy can feel limited every day by their symptoms, whether they are afraid to drive or even bathe alone for fear of having a cataplexy attack or falling asleep. One in two people with cataplexy may experience injury as a result of an attack.

With Family and Friends

People with narcolepsy may be perceived as lazy or bored due to sleepiness. They may be embarrassed or unable to attend social engagements because they are tired. Cataplexy can cause people to avoid social situations and emotional conversations that might trigger attacks. They may have learned to hold back feelings to control their cataplexy, which can cause emotional withdrawal and social difficulty.

What is narcolepsy really like?

I missed my own 21st birthday because of my sleepiness.

Nicki, 29 years old, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

Performance of routine tasks without awareness or memory.

Difficulty focusing or concentrating.

Brief loss of muscle tone with retained awareness, often triggered by strong emotions.

Frequent shifts between different states of sleep and wakefulness at night.

The inability to stay awake and alert during the day; a constant need for sleep or unintentionally falling asleep.

A chemical in the brain that helps maintain wakefulness.

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

Dream-like events that occur when falling asleep. Called hypnopompic hallucinations if they occur when waking up.

A chemical in the brain that helps maintain wakefulness and prevent non-REM sleep and REM sleep from occurring at the wrong time.

Unintentionally falling asleep due to excessive daytime sleepiness; “sleep attacks.”

Restorative sleep state with decreased muscle tone.

Occurs at night and includes vivid dreams; muscles are not active to prevent people from acting out dreams.

Daytime and evening habits to improve sleep.

Brief total loss of voluntary muscle control when falling asleep or while waking up.

People with type 1 narcolepsy can be diagnosed by their cataplexy or low levels of hypocretin.

The cause of type 2 narcolepsy is unknown.