Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Symptoms of narcolepsy usually start during the teen or young-adult years. Very few patients are younger than age 5 or older than age 50 when symptoms first occur. If you have narcolepsy, symptoms occur even if you have gotten an appropriate amount of sleep. Some people notice that their symptoms grow worse as they age. Some women notice improvement of their symptoms after menopause.

If you have narcolepsy, you may notice any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Overwhelming daytime sleepiness
  • Uncontrollable “sleep attacks” – These involuntary episodes tend to last between 3–30 minutes. They may occur periodically throughout every day, but may also be brought on by certain triggers, such as:
    • Warm environment
    • Heavy meals
    • Boring and/or sedentary occupations
  • Cataplexy – A sudden and complete loss of muscle tone and strength. Cataplexy is often precipitated by:
    • Intense emotion, such as anger or laughter
    • Stress
    • Being tickled
    • Orgasm
    • Eating a heavy meal
  • Sleep paralysis – A complete or partial inability to move or speak just as sleep or a sleep attack is beginning or ending
  • Hallucinations – Visual images that you see vividly, though they don’t really exist. They can be very disturbing. These hallucinations may occur as sleep begins or as it ends and you are waking.
  • Memory problems
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent nighttime awakening

References:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .

Textbook of Clinical Neurology . W.B. Saunders Company; 1999.

Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Mosby; 2004.



Last reviewed February 2007 by Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, MS

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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