What Is Narcolepsy?

What Is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that involves the central nervous system. People with narcolepsy may have sleep attacks that come on without warning. Narcolepsy often shows up in younger people, but can also appear later in life. It can be diagnosed by a health care provider or a sleep specialist. Read on to learn what you can do to cope with narcolepsy.

Woman with a headache, holding hands to her temples with eyes closed.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

You may have one or more of the following:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), when you want to sleep all day long.

  • Sleep attacks that occur without warning and are hard to resist.

  • Cataplexy, a sudden loss of muscle control. It is often triggered by stress or by emotions such as laughter, fear, or anger.

  • Sleep paralysis, a feeling of not being able to talk or move for a short time. It may occur when a person is falling asleep or waking up.

  • Hypnagogic hallucinations, certain images, sensations, or sounds that occur when a person is falling asleep or waking up.

  • Other symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, poor memory, or depression.

Understanding REM Sleep

REM (rapid eye movement) is the dreaming portion of sleep. Usually, REM sleep begins after the first 90 minutes. For people with narcolepsy, REM sleep begins much sooner. This can make dreaming so vivid, it seems real.