usually start during the teen or young-adult years. Very few people 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
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 environmentHeavy mealsBoring and/or sedentary occupations
Cataplexy—A sudden and complete loss of muscle tone and strength. Cataplexy can occur at any time during the day and is often brought on by:
Intense emotion, such as anger or laughterStressBeing tickledOrgasmEating a heavy mealSleep paralysis—A complete or partial inability to move or speak just as sleep or a sleep attack is beginning or endingHypnogogic hallucinations: Hallucinations usually occur as sleep begins or ends, and while you are waking. They can be very disturbing.They are usually visual images that you see vividly, though they don’t really exist.They can also be tactile and auditory sensations.Automatic behaviour Episodes similar to sleepwalking that may happen during involuntary sleep episodesMay include continuation of current activity or meaningless speechDifficulty staying asleep at nightMemory problemsBlurry visionFrequent nighttime waking
Narcolepsy. American Sleep Association website. Available at:
Updated September 2007. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
Updated April 6, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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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