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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes severe sleepiness and frequent sudden daytime attacks of sleep. Narcolepsy can cause you to fall asleep at any time but can keep you from sleeping well at night. You do not get enough sleep in a 24-hour period. The cause of narcolepsy is not known.

What are the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy?

  • Restless sleep
  • Severe sleepiness during the day
  • Sudden loss of muscle strength (cataplexy)
  • Not being able to move or speak when you fall asleep or first wake up (sleep paralysis)
  • Hallucinations caused by dreaming while you are not fully asleep

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Tell him or her about your sleep history and what triggers your sleep attacks.

  • Polysomnography is a sleep study that records your brain activity, oxygen level, and body movements while you sleep.
  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It is used to check for heart damage.

How is narcolepsy treated?

Narcolepsy is a long-term condition. The goal of treatment is to decrease your symptoms and increase your quality of life. Medicines may help keep you awake during the day or help decrease your symptoms.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Keep a record of your sleep patterns for up to 2 weeks. Bring it to your follow-up visit. This will help your healthcare provider plan the best treatment for you.
  • Take naps. This can help control your narcolepsy. Take 20-minute naps at the same times every day. One long nap in the afternoon may also help.
  • Keep a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
  • Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, or use tobacco. These can interfere with your sleep and make your symptoms worse.
  • Exercise regularly at least 4 hours before you go to bed. Exercise helps you stay awake during the day and sleep better at night. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
    Walking for Exercise

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your symptoms interfere with your daily activities.
  • You are not able to sleep well at night, even with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Narcolepsy

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments guides (external)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.