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Narcolepsy

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Definition

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of narcolepsy are:

  • Periods of extreme drowsiness every 3 to 4 hours during the day. You may feel a strong urge to sleep, often followed by a short nap (sleep attack).
    • These periods last for about 15 minutes each, although they can be longer.
    • They often happen after eating, but may occur while driving, talking to someone, or during other situations.
    • You wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Dream-like hallucinations may occur during the stage between sleep and wakefulness. They involve seeing or hearing, and possibly other senses.
  • Sleep paralysis is when you are unable to move when you first wake up. It may also happen when you first become drowsy.
  • Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone while awake, resulting in the inability to move. Strong emotions, such as laughter or anger, will often bring on cataplexy.
    • Most attacks last for less than 30 seconds and can be missed.
    • Your head will suddenly fall forward, your jaw will become slack, and your knees will buckle.
    • In severe cases, a person may fall and stay paralyzed for as long as several minutes.

Not all patients have all four symptoms.

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