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narcolepsy patient
Sleep Disorders


Narcolepsy is a debilitating disorder that often has features combining excessive sleepiness with insomnia. Some patients with narcolepsy experience a bizarre symptom called cataplexy, the temporary, uncontrollable weakness in limbs and body parts that may result in stumbling or even collapsing to the ground. Our sleep specialists have a special interest in narcolepsy combined with years of experience treating this disorder. Visit one of the two offices in Kirkland and Seattle, Washington, for quality treatments and compassionate care for narcolepsy. Call or book your appointment online.

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What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is an immune-mediated disorder that affects brain networks that control sleep and wakefulness.

Narcolepsy is a condition that can have serious complications. It causes poor sleep quality at night, and bouts of intense sleepiness during the day that inhibits daily functioning.

Many narcoleptics can experience cataplexy, a temporary weakness in their limbs and other body parts, particularly if they’re under emotional stress. This weakening of the limbs is a condition called cataplexy.

Other common experiences in narcolepsy include sleep paralysis, the temporary inability to move when waking from a dream, dream-like images or hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up, and out-of-body experiences.

There are 2 types of narcolepsy

Type I

With type I narcolepsy, the narcoleptic experiences episodes called cataplexy, a collapse due to the sudden onset of extreme fatigue. Other symptoms include excessive daytime fatigue, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. The majority of cases are type 1 narcolepsy.

Type II

Type II narcolepsy is also categorized by excess fatigue in the daytime, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. The difference is it doesn’t involve cataplexy, the sudden collapse and weakening of body parts.

What causes narcolepsy?

There are probably several underlying mechanisms that result in narcolepsy, and research into these mechanisms is ongoing. Most researchers believe that the most common form of narcolepsy, type I, results from loss of brain cells that make a specific neurotransmitter in your brain called hypocretin, which regulates REM sleep and wakefulness.

Many narcoleptics have low hypocretin levels.

Underlying risk factors for narcolepsy include genetic predisposition, certain viruses such as influenza, head trauma, MS and stroke.

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

Your Sound Sleep Health provider diagnoses narcolepsy with numerous tests and a consultation, where you’ll discuss your medical history, your current symptoms, and details about your sleep schedule and sleep quality.

The most common test for narcolepsy involves coming to our patient-friendly sleep testing center and doing an overnight test (PSG) followed by a daytime nap test (MSLT).

If the facility testing doesn’t confirm narcolepsy, a spinal fluid sample may be obtained and sent out for hypocretin levels.

In some cases, testing for narcolepsy can be performed in the home with portable overnight EEG testing. This home testing is especially useful for those who don’t sleep well away from home.

If you are concerned you might have narcolepsy, call or book online to visit the Sound Sleep Health medical team.