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What Are the Symptoms of Narcolepsy?

There’s more to narcolepsy than falling asleep.

Narcolepsy is a rare disorder with 5 main symptoms. Although all people living with narcolepsy have excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), not everyone with the disorder will have all of the symptoms. People with cataplexy have type 1 narcolepsy; narcolepsy without cataplexy is often called type 2 narcolepsy.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

EDS is the inability to stay awake and alert during the day.

Cataplexy

Cataplexy is the sudden and brief loss of muscle strength or tone, usually triggered by strong emotions such as laughter or surprise.

Hypnagogic/Hypnopompic Hallucinations

Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid, dream-like experiences that occur when falling asleep; hypnopompic hallucinations are similar but occur while waking up.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is the inability to move, speak, or open one’s eyes when falling asleep or waking up.

Disrupted Nighttime Sleep

Disrupted nighttime sleep causes people to wake up at night.

In addition to these symptoms, most people with narcolepsy report vivid dreams during naps.

Did You Know?

Narcolepsy is so much more than just being tired. It affects every aspect of your life.

Scott, 48 years old, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

Stories about living with narcolepsy are personal.

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What causes narcolepsy symptoms?

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Can Narcolepsy Be Cured?

While there is currently no cure, narcolepsy can be managed, and being well-informed about all of the symptoms can help. Talking to a healthcare professional about all possible signs of narcolepsy is important. A friend or family member may recognize symptoms that may go unnoticed, so bringing one of them to appointments can be helpful.

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.