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Narcolepsy 101

December 8th, 2023

So what is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder with two major types: Narcolepsy Type 1 and Narcolepsy Type 2. Symptoms for both include:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) – a persistent sense of brain fog, lack of energy, cognitive impairment, and exhaustion. It also includes sleep attacks, constant drowsiness, and microsleeps.
  • Sleep paralysis – transient inability to move at sleep-wake transitions.
  • Hypnagogic Hallucinations – vivid audio and visual events while falling asleep, or while awakening.
  • Disturbed nighttime sleep – fragmented sleep with multiple awakenings.

On top of these symptoms, Narcolepsy Type 1 involves cataplexy, and this is what distinguishes it from Narcolepsy Type 2.

  • Cataplexy – sudden episode of muscle weakness triggered by emotion.

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

It is estimated that only 25% of people who have narcolepsy have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment. The average time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis is seven years.

Narcolepsy can only be diagnosed definitively with a set of sleep studies. Your doctor will examine you, your medical history, ask questions about your sleep patterns using a sleep scale, and may also ask you to keep a sleep diary.

You would need to have an overnight Polysomnogram (PSG) and then stay the next day for a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT).

  • PSG – takes place overnight in a sleep lab and monitors brain activity, heart rate, breathing, eye and leg movements, and oxygen.
  • MSLT – occurs after a polysomnogram and records the time it takes for you to fall asleep during a nap.

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Date Created: December 8th, 2023
Last Updated: December 21st, 2023