Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological condition which impairs the ability of the central nervous system to regulate sleep. Individuals with narcolepsy typically experience disturbed sleep (often confused with insomnia) and abnormal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Narcolepsy affects about 1 in 2,000 people. Most individuals experience their first symptoms between the ages of 10 and 25. Evidence suggests that the condition is genetic, and while it is a lifelong condition, it does not usually get progressively worse. However, narcolepsy is a serious disorder with potential physical, mental, and social consequences.
Narcolepsy leads to a sudden loss of muscle control which can cause the patient to collapse, temporary disability to move or speak and nightmares.
Excessive daytime sleepiness. Impossible to stay awake and often have uncontrollable sleepiness during the day.
Abnormal REM sleep. Dream right after falling asleep, whereas most people take about 90 minutes to enter the REM phase.
Hypnagogic hallucinations. Experience vivid, sometimes frightening, visual or auditory sensations while falling asleep or upon awakening.
Cataplexy. Sudden loss of muscle control while awake, usually experienced during strong emotion such as anger, grief, or while laughing.
Sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or talk at the beginning or end of sleep. About 25 to 50% of narcolepsy sufferers experience sleep paralysis.
Nighttime wakefulness. Periods of wakefulness at night. This disrupted nighttime sleep adds to daytime sleepiness.