“Not knowing whether I was actually fully awake or not was terrifying.” – Matt
What Are the Other Symptoms of Narcolepsy?
In addition to sleepiness and cataplexy, people living with narcolepsy often report other symptoms.
Hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and disrupted nighttime sleep can happen to anyone, but they can also be associated with narcolepsy. These symptoms can have a significant impact on day-to-day life.
Narcolepsy Symptoms Can Include Sleep Paralysis, Hypnagogic Hallucinations
Emily, Sean, Sharon, & Scott
Narcolepsy symptoms can go beyond excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. People living with narcolepsy share their experiences with hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis and disrupted nighttime sleep.
What seemed like an eternity was probably a couple seconds. It felt like the covers were burying me, like I could barely breathe.
Sharon, 43 years old, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy
Many people with narcolepsy have vivid dream-like experiences while falling asleep, called hypnagogic hallucinations. Hypnopompic hallucinations are similar experiences but they occur while waking up.
Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak when falling asleep or waking up. The paralysis usually lasts a few minutes and ends suddenly or when someone touches the person. Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis can occur in any sleep-deprived person, but their presence can help in recognizing narcolepsy.
Disrupted Nighttime Sleep
Some people living 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.
Telling a healthcare provider about all signs and symptoms, even if they seem insignificant, is important.
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 dream-like experiences that occur while 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 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.