The cause of narcolepsy is unknown. Genetics, infections, deficiencies of hypocretin (a brain chemical that regulates REM sleep), trauma to the head, and brain abnormalities are factors that may contribute to the development of narcolepsy.
The symptoms of narcolepsy usually begin between the ages of 10 and 25. Some or all of the symptoms listed may occur.
A person who has narcolepsy might fall asleep multiple times with no warning anytime, anywhere. Occasionally, the automatic behavior occurs and the person continues to function even though he or she is asleep. The sleep episodes affect “normal” daily activities by affecting the person’s ability to concentrate and function. Lack of energy, depression, memory lapses, and exhaustion are not uncommon. All patients with narcolepsy are excessively sleepy.
Uncontrollable, sudden loss of muscle tone, or cataplexy, can result in physical changes that may include feelings of weakness, slurred speech, loss of voluntary muscle control, and/or total body collapse. Cataplexy is often triggered by strong emotions including intense fear, surprise, anger, or laughter. It may last for a few seconds or for a few minutes. About 70% of patients with narcolepsy experience cataplexy.
A person with narcolepsy may experience a temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. Although these episodes may be brief in duration and all faculties are rapidly recovered, they are nonetheless unnerving experiences. About 60% of patients with narcolepsy experience sleep paralysis.
Hallucinations that are brought about by narcolepsy are often so real and vivid that they are quite frightening. Hypnagogcic hallucinations occur as a person is falling asleep. Hypnopompic hallucinations occur as a person is awakening. About 65% of patients with narcolepsy experience hallucinations either during sleep onset or awakenings.
If any of the above-mentioned symptoms are occurring in your life, it is time to see Dr. Nassar
. Exhibited symptoms and a sleep history are the first clues to a narcolepsy diagnosis. An initial diagnosis of narcolepsy may be followed by a test to measure the levels of hypocretin in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and in-depth overnight sleep testing at Jacksonville Sleep Center. Testing for narcolepsy will also detect any other possible causes of your symptoms.
To prepare for the sleep testing, you may be asked to journal the details of your sleep patterns for a designated time period. Overnight sleep testing involves a polysomnogram (to measure the electrical activity of your brain and heart as well as the movement of your muscles and eyes) and a multiple sleep latency test (to measure how long it takes you to fall asleep during the day).