Narcolepsy is a chronic brain disorder that causes severe daytime sleepiness. It is a chronic neurological disorder that involves the loss of the brain’s ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness. Symptoms gets compared to how people who do not have narcolepsy feel after 24–48 hours of sleep deprivation, as well as disturbed sleep which often is confused with insomnia.
There are two types of narcolepsy, type 1 (narcolepsy and cataplexy) and type 2 (narcolepsy without cataplexy). The symptoms of both are very similar, but they may have different causes.
What are the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy?
The most common symptom of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness, especially when the person isn’t active. Some people with narcolepsy may also have sleep attacks that last about 15-30 minutes and that can happen at any time.
About 60 percent of people with narcolepsy have a symptom called cataplexy — a sudden episode of muscle weakness while awake. Cataplexy is triggered by emotions, most often positive emotions, such as laughter. But it can also be triggered by negative emotions, such as anger and frustration. Cataplexy usually begins with muscle weakness in the face and neck and spreads to muscles of the body and limbs. In mild cases, it can cause a sagging face or slurred speech. In severe cases, it can cause the child to collapse to the ground, unable to move for a few minutes. Cataplexy usually only occurs in people with type 1 narcolepsy.
Other symptoms of narcolepsy can include:
- visual hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up
- sleep paralysis (feeling like the body is paralyzed or heavy when waking from sleep)
- waking often during the night
- attention problems, memory issues, hyperactivity or behavior problems
- vivid dreams or nightmares
- walking, talking or yelling in sleep
- kicking or restless movement while sleeping
- early puberty