Understanding the Symptoms Of Narcolepsy

Before we get into the symptoms of narcolepsy, make sure you understand what narcolepsy is.

If you've heard anything at all about narcolepsy, it's probably that it involves someone falling asleep at inopportune times. While this is true, the severity of this sleeping disorder goes well beyond simply falling asleep when you shouldn't.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Here then, is a list of the common symptoms of narcolepsy.

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)
    One symptoms of narcolepsy is when narcoleptics experience sudden, involuntary bouts of sleep. This urge to fall asleep can be so great that narcoleptics can't help but to fall asleep unexpectedly no matter what they may happen to be doing at the time. Whether they are chatting with someone, eating dinner or playing a game, they will suddenly succumb to the urge to sleep. This may last anywhere from seconds to minutes. Of course, where this gets dangerous is where the narcoleptic is in the middle of operating heavy machinery, like a car. In addition to the problems caused by actually falling asleep, they will have other issues that are associated with EDS such as suffering from a lack of energy or total exhaustion, being depressed or a cloudy head. After these sudden sleeping bouts, they tend to wake up feeling more refreshed and find that their fatigues has subsides for another hour or two.

  • Micro Sleep
    Somewhat of a byproduct of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, micro sleeps are when your brain is telling you that you really need to sleep but society is telling you that you can't at that moment. Granted, narcoleptics will fall asleep anywhere if they urge is strong enough, but with micro sleeps, however, only part of their brain goes to sleep. It's similar to your body going on autopilot and your brain taking a break for a bit. You're still functioning but kind of "zoned out". This symptom of narcolepsy is similar to sleepwalking.

  • Hallucinations
    Vivid image-rich dreams and hallucinations are another symptom of narcolepsy. These usually happen during the onset of sleep or immediately upon waking. While these are usually not considered dangerous, these hallucinations can be very scary and may cause the patient to fear going to sleep.

  • Sleep Paralysis
    Sleep paralysis ,or the inability to move while sleeping, is a symptom of narcolepsy that can be hard to detect by others. Since it occurs at the onset of REM sleep, healthy sleepers won't usually witness the event. People who experience sleep paralysis lose all control of their muscles and speech - but remain fully conscious. This can be terrifying, especially when experienced initially. Scared by the inability to move, many people fear they are dying or permanently paralyzed.

  • Cataplexy
    Cataplexy is when someone loses all control of their muscle tone and muscle control. The difference between sleep paralysis and cataplexy is that, although the individual is fully conscious during both, with cataplexy it occurs while they are up and about rather than in bed during the night. The episodes usually don't last very long, and can vary in both severity and duration. Sometime it can be almost imperceptible and at other times can be a total shut down of all muscles - leading to a physical collapse. Cataplexy is thought to be triggered by strong emotions like excitement and humor on one end of the spectrum to anger, fear and stress on the other end. Although this symptom of narcolepsy isn't in itself dangerous, people suffering from severe cataplexy have to make sure that someone is constantly around them during their waking hours so that they don't injure themselves during a collapse.

    Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Disrupted Nighttime Sleep
    Although people who suffer from narcolepsy are able to get to sleep without any problems, they normally don't sleep well throughout the night. Their sleep may be disrupted by everything from insomnia and hypnic jerks to vivid dreams, sleep talking and REM sleep behaviour disorder.

  • Obesity
    After experiencing symptoms of narcolepsy and being diagnosed with narcolepsy, many individuals report a sudden gaining of weight. Fortunately, this symptom of narcolepsy can be prevented with proper treatment.

Another symptom of narcolepsy that is very difficult to detect is the speed at which someone enters REM sleep. Healthy sleepers only enter the stage of sleep known as REM sleep about 100 to 110 minutes after initially dozing off. People suffering from narcolepsy, however, will enter REM sleep within minutes of falling asleep. This symptom of narcolepsy can only be detected by a sleep study.

If you suspect that you, or someone you know, may be suffering from the sleep disorder narcolepsy, explaining your symptoms will help your doctor diagnose your condition. While there is no cure, there are definitely treatments that will alleviate many of the symptoms of narcolepsy.