What is Narcolepsy?

NarcolepsyNarcolepsy is defined as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in which you have extreme fatigue and possibly fall asleep at inappropriate times.  At times the urge to fall asleep is so great that you have little to no warning before you drift off.  Narcolepsy is not as rare as you think; it affects about 1 in 2000 people.  Often times the problem goes untreated or undiagnosed.

Narcolepsy is characterized by four main symptoms:

  • Cataplexy- this is a sudden but temporary loss of muscle tone usually brought on by strong emotions (laughing, anger, surprise, etc.).
  • Hypnogogic / Hypnopompic Hallucinations- these hallucinations are usually bizarre or frightening.  They occur at the beginning or the end of sleep and normally last under ten minutes.
  • Sleep Paralysis- this is the temporary inability to move or talk at the beginning or end of sleep.  Often times people have hallucinations during this time period.
  • Automatic Behavior- means that you continue to function (walking, talking, etc.) during sleep episodes; however you have no memory of ever having done or said anything when you awaken.

What Kind of Testing Will I Have to Receive to Diagnose This Problem?

The testing includes one full night diagnostic study to rule out any possible sleeping disorders (such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome) and one test during the day called an MSLT (Multiple Sleep Latency Test).  The entire testing period lasts from7pm the starting night to 4pm the next day. 

The MSLT consists of trying to take several small naps during the day.  During this portion of the testing you will be provided with a breakfast and lunch.  In between the naps you will be allowed to watch TV or read.

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