Symptoms of Narcolepsy


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Symptoms of Narcolepsy will vary from person to person but all narcoleptics will suffer some form of excessive daytime sleepiness and possible attacks. However, as they differ for everyone, the major symptoms can be broken down further. It would be recommended that, should you be experiencing any of the following symptoms, you certainly monitor them and perhaps seek medical intervention:

Symptoms of Narcolepsy include:-

Excessive Sleepiness:

  • Falling asleep unexpectedly, abruptly, and even if you are fully participating in an activity. This may last a few seconds/minutes.
  • Have periods have drowsiness several times a day, sometimes resulting in the need for a short nap.
  • Being unable to identify how long they are asleep for and do not know of all their actions during their drowsy period.
  • Mentally issues with trouble concentrating and remembering things which is significantly caused due to the lack of sleep during the night. They may also show signs of depression due to this fatigue and mental strain.

Cataplexy:

  • Cataplexy is abrupt loss of control over the muscles which always occurs when you are awake. This symptom affects around 2/3’s of narcolepsy sufferers.
  • The symptoms of this lack of control include: difficulty moving arms, drooping eyelids, struggle to hold head up, difficulty communicating and weak knees which may result in collapsing.
  • There can be more serious attacks of cataplexy which involve the whole body becoming limp and in severe cases this will happen repeatedly for a few hours to several days. This is given the term “status cataplectics” and is most commonly caused by a sudden withdrawal from drugs used to treat narcolepsy.
  • You will be fully conscious during these attacks.
  • The triggers for cataplexy are commonly emotional, such as: excitement, anger, fear and any form of sudden emotional change.
  • Cataplexy can also be triggered by a period of stress, such as bereavement, work-related stress and so forth.
  • Attack may follow a heavy meal.

These symptoms of cataplexy normally begin several months after you have started to experience excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep Paralysis:

  • Sleep paralysis is sudden feeling of not being able to move/talk during a period of either falling asleep or waking up from sleep.
  • You will be conscious during this experience.
  • It will last for a few seconds or minutes and can be quite scary at first.
  • Not all narcoleptics will suffer from this symptom.
  • Can also be accompanied by hallucinations.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations:

  • Hypnagogic Hallucinations are often described as dreaming whilst awake.
  • The hallucinations can differ from dreams in the fact they sometimes involve very real sensations such as taste, touch and sounds.
  • Please note - this symptom is often noted in other sleeping disorders due to the extreme sleepiness felt during the day and requires professional monitoring.

There may be variations of these symptoms and if you are experiencing any of the above, start by beginning a sleep diary or monitoring your sleeping patterns. Equally, if the symptoms are quite serious, e.g. you are falling asleep unexpectedly, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible and cease activities that could put you and others in danger should you fall asleep in the process e.g. driving.


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