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

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What Are the Other Symptoms of Narcolepsy?

These symptoms can have a significant impact on people living with the disorder and may help with recognizing narcolepsy.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations and Sleep Paralysis

Many people living with narcolepsy have hypnagogic hallucinations, vivid dream-like experiences, or sleep paralysis, the inability to move or speak when falling asleep or waking up. The hallucinations can be frightening and often occur with sleep paralysis. The paralysis usually lasts a few minutes and ends suddenly or when someone touches the person. Both symptoms can occur in any sleep-deprived person, but their presence can help in recognizing narcolepsy.

Disrupted Nighttime Sleep

Some people with narcolepsy have disrupted nighttime sleep and may wake up often throughout the night. The inability to sleep well at night is often reported by people living with narcolepsy as a significant lifestyle limitation and sometimes more of a problem than other symptoms.

Narcolepsy takes your world and sort of flips it upside down.

Scott, 48 years old, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

People with narcolepsy do not always share their experiences. They may be unable to describe their cataplexy or embarrassed to talk about it. Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis can be so frightening that people are reluctant to discuss them with not only a healthcare professional but also family and friends.

Telling a healthcare professional about all signs and symptoms, even if they seem insignificant, is important.

Support is available to help people with narcolepsy talk about and manage their symptoms.

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What causes narcolepsy symptoms?

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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.