Narcolepsy Symptoms | Symptoms of Narcolepsy | Narcolepsy and Symptoms

Narcolepsy Symptoms

Narcolepsy symptoms you will mostly experience are excessive sleepiness and daytime sleep attacks.

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) - primary characteristic is an overwhelming drowsiness and uncontrollable need to sleep during the day.
  • Cataplexy: It can cause physical changes, which can range from slurred speech and weakness of muscles through to total collapse. Attacks may be triggered by sudden emotional reactions such as laughter, anger, or fear, and may last from a few seconds to several minutes. The person remains conscious throughout the episode. Cataplexy is often triggered by strong emotional responses. Cataplexy is unique to narcolepsy.
  • Sleep paralysis: Less commonly, people with Narcolepsy experience a temporary inability to talk or move when falling asleep or waking up. It may last a few seconds to minutes. Sleep paralysis is characteristic of the immobility that often accompanies REM sleep, which experts believe serves to prevent the body from acting out dream activity.
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations: These hallucinations may take place when people with Narcolepsy fall quickly into REM sleep. Vivid, often frightening, dream-like experiences that occur while dozing or falling asleep.
  • Fragmented nighttime sleep: In addition to the difficulty with sleep during daytime, people with narcolepsy wake up often and tend to have poor sleep at night. 
  • Automatic behavior: People with narcolepsy experience automatic behavior during sleep attacks. This behavior occurs when routine tasks such as making coffee or taking shower are performed without full memory or awareness of them.

Narcolepsy symptoms like daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations can also occur in people who do not have narcolepsy. In most cases, the first kind of symptoms of narcolepsy to appear is excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness.

The other narcolepsy symptoms may begin alone or in combination months or years after the onset of the daytime sleep attacks. The narcolepsy symptoms, especially the excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, often become severe enough to cause serious disruptions in a person's social, personal, and professional lives and severely limit activities.

There are wide variations in the development, severity, and order of appearance of cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations in individuals. Only about 20 to 25 percent of people with narcolepsy experience all four narcolepsy symptoms.

Narcolepsy symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness generally persists throughout life but sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations may not.


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