Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee



Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder that is characterized by sudden onsets of severe sleepiness during waking hours, referred to as sleep attacks. To the observer, sleep attacks appear as spontaneous naps. While these naps may be temporarily refreshing, those suffering from narcolepsy may find themselves severely sleepy again within a short period of time. These intrusions of sleep into waking hours often involve dreaming (REM) sleep. Narcolepsy is classified as occurring “with cataplexy” or “without cataplexy”. Cataplexy is sudden loss of muscle tone or paralysis (called muscle atonia) that usually occurs as part of REM sleep. Cataplexy is often triggered by strong emotion, and may result in a wide array of symptoms, ranging from a collapsing to the ground to muscle twitching. Narcolepsy may also be associated with hallucinatory type activity while going to sleep, or with a feeling of muscle paralysis when waking. It has been found to be associated with decreased levels of hypocretin (a substance in the cerebral spinal fluid), which can be caused by genetic or other factors. Narcolepsy usually has an onset during the late teen or early adulthood years, and often goes undiagnosed for years. Narcolepsy is most often diagnosed with an overnight sleep study followed by a nap trial test (called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test) during the day.  The treatment for narcolepsy is usually stimulant and other types of medication, in addition to behavioral treatments such as scheduling naps.
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