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Narcolepsy and Symptoms - Searching for Ways to Stay Awake?

Updated on July 5, 2011

Curious about narcolepsy and symptoms common to this disorder? You probably are if you're one of the 200,000 people in the United States diagnosed with it. If you have uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day, regardless of what you do or how hard you try to stay awake, chances are you could have narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy and Symptoms

Learn about narcolepsy and symptoms associated with this condition.
Learn about narcolepsy and symptoms associated with this condition. | Source

Understanding Narcolepsy and Symptoms

At some point, nearly everyone has felt so tired while driving they had to pull over and catch a quick nap or taking a snooze during your lunch break. If you're like most people, you’ve experienced this, but you knew what caused it. You knew you had stayed up too late the night before or haven't been getting enough sleep for several days. To correct it, you go to bed early and the problem is solved. 

If you're narcoleptic, it isn't so simple. You can have a full night's sleep and still fall asleep without warning during the day. You search for ways to stay awake but no amount of caffeine or 5 Hour Energy helps. You simply can't help yourself.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Falling asleep at work or during the day while you're at home makes you feel lazy. You begin wondering what your problem is. True narcoleptics shouldn't feel this way. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects your sleep. If you have narcolepsy, you aren’t able to control your periods of sleep and wakefulness regardless of the activity you're involved in at the time.

Common symptoms of narcolepsy:

1. Excessive Sleepiness: You fall asleep one or several times during the day regardless of the amount of sleep you had the night before.

2. Sudden Loss of Muscle Tone: The scientific name for this condition is Cataplexy. Suddenly, you feel like your legs can't support you. This isn't the same feeling you have before you faint. This feels like you're so tired you simply can't stand up any longer. Symptoms range from slurred speech to complete body collapse.

3. Uncontrollable Sleeping: When you're narcoleptic, you can't help falling asleep even when you don’t want to. You may be participating in a sport or having fun with friends and family, but you just can't stay awake.

Narcolepsy often begins during the teenage years and affects boys and girls, men and women equally. Scientists now believe this condition is genetic. If a family member is narcoleptic, you have an 8% to 12% increased chance of developing this condition.

Diagnosing Narcolepsy

If you suspect you have narcolepsy and would like to get an official diagnosis as well as getting help to discover ways to stay awake, you need to seek medical help. Talk to your doctor and have him schedule a sleep study that includes a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) and a polysomnogram (PSG). The sleep study doctor will then interpret these medical tests. It all depends on what type of insurance you have, but surprisingly, many insurance companies pay for these.

Learn About Narcolepsy and Symptoms

Narcolepsy Prognosis

Unfortunately, there isn't a cure for narcolepsy. If your doctor diagnoses you with this disorder, he will most likely prescribe medicine that helps you control it. You doctor may give you stimulant drugs that help you with the sleepiness and antidepressant drugs that help the abnormal REM sleep patterns.

While this condition can't be cured, you can improve it. Work with your doctor and talk to family, friends, and coworkers. Getting a proper diagnosis, getting medical help with prescriptions and making adjustments with your lifestyle and sleep habits all work toward controlling narcolepsy and symptoms of narcolepsy.


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    • Crewman6 profile image

      Crewman6 7 years ago

      My wife suffers from agoraphobia; not the same disease, but the social stigma seems like it would be the same. She's had some hard times with people who despise her because they think she's making it up. At least now she has a good support network.

      You're right, getting an actual diagnosis can at least help alleviate the feelings of guilt imposed by others, and maybe help others understand.

    • Debhsmomof4 profile image

      Debhsmomof4 7 years ago from New York, New York

      Yes, they can. I used to work with the nicest man who had narcolepsy but no one knew he actually had anything wrong with him. For a long time we just all thought wasn't bothering to do his job. He was such a nice person, not much was ever said, but I think it was helpful to everyone, especially him, after he was diagnosed and got some help. Until then, I think we all secretly thought, "Man, wish I could sleep on the job!"

      Getting it diagnosed and telling coworkers and family definitely helps.

    • Crewman6 profile image

      Crewman6 7 years ago

      Narcolepsy is a frightening thought; People can be very thoughtless with this kind of difficulty.