Treatment For Narcolepsy

sleep study patient

At Brunswick Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine, our experienced team of specialists takes a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to treating the whole patient and can help you understand and overcome the challenges you may be facing if you’ve been diagnosed with a sleep disorder.

What Is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control sleep and wakefulness. People with narcolepsy often feel rested when they wake up but experience excessive daytime sleepiness and occasional involuntary episodes of falling asleep that can occur at any time of day. Narcolepsy often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed. If left untreated, it can inhibit cognitive, social and psychological function and have a significant impact on your relationships, work, academic performance and social activities. Our skilled specialists are well-versed in identifying symptoms of narcolepsy and are committed to providing an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of this complex disorder.

Symptoms Of Narcolepsy

During a regular sleep cycle, rapid eye movement (REM) begins within about 60 to 90 minutes of falling asleep, and the brain inhibits the movement of muscles during this time so you don’t act out your dreams. People with narcolepsy often enter REM sleep much more quickly, within 15 minutes of falling asleep. Muscle weakness and dream activity that’s typically associated with REM sleep may not occur at all while a person with narcolepsy is asleep but can happen while they are awake. Symptoms of narcolepsy often begin between the ages of 7 and 25 but can appear at any age. The most common symptoms include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is characterized by persistent fatigue or sleepiness, regardless of how much sleep you get at night. People with narcolepsy often suffer “sleep attacks” in which a sudden sense of sleepiness comes on very quickly and the person actually falls asleep.
  • Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to weakness and a loss of voluntary muscle control. It may be triggered by strong emotions such as fear, anger, stress, laughter or excitement. Episodes last a few minutes at most, and the person is fully conscious during this time. Mild attacks involve a temporary sense of slight weakness in a limited number of muscles. Severe attacks can result in body collapse during which you may not be able to move, speak or keep your eyes open.
  • Sleep paralysis can seem similar to cataplexy but occurs when you are falling asleep or waking up. It usually lasts just a few seconds or minutes and is similar to what happens during the REM stage of sleep. The good news is that after episodes of cataplexy and sleep paralysis, people quickly recover their ability to speak and move.
  • Hallucinations are vivid and sometimes alarming visual images and other sensory perceptions that may accompany sleep paralysis.

Other symptoms of narcolepsy include insomnia, sleep apnea, acting out while dreaming and restless leg syndrome.

Treatment For Narcolepsy

There is no cure for narcolepsy, but some symptoms can be treated with medicines and lifestyle changes. Our team of professionals works with you to create a treatment program that’s tailored to your specific needs and lifestyle to help you enjoy a healthier, happier life.

Contact Us

If you need help with a sleep disorder, contact us online or call Brunswick Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine at 732-246-3066. For more information about narcolepsy, check out this National Institutes of Health fact sheet.