Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a disorder in which you sleep well at night, but also have extreme sleepiness during the day. You may fall asleep at inappropriate times (such as driving). These sleep attacks can occur without warning.
Narcolepsy occurs in men and women. Symptoms can start at any age. Narcolepsy may run in families or occur without any family history.

Symptoms may include:

  • feeling very sleepy during the day even after a good night's sleep
  • falling asleep when you shouldn't (such as while driving, eating or talking)
  • having sudden loss of muscle control or collapse when you laugh, get angry, become surprised or shocked, or with grief
  • are briefly unable to talk or move while falling asleep or waking up
  • vivid dream-like experiences when you wake up or fall asleep

People who have narcolepsy usually do not have all symptoms.

The symptoms — especially the daytime sleepiness — can affect your personal and professional life.

You will likely need to have a sleep study to confirm you have narcolepsy. Your health care provider may refer you to a sleep specialist for more testing.
There is no cure for narcolepsy. Medicines and lifestyle changes (including daytime naps) can reduce your symptoms. You may need to work with your health care provider over a period of time to find what works best for you.

Reviewed By: Dr. Michael Schmitz, PsyD, LP, CBSM, Abbott Northwestern Hospital; Andrew Stiehm, MD, Allina Health clinics
First Published: 05/01/2009
Last Reviewed: 03/22/2016