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Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that disrupts your brain's normal sleep-wake cycle. You get strong urges to sleep at odd times of the day and suffer from severe daytime sleepiness — even if you are well-rested. You may find it hard to concentrate and may fall asleep without meaning to for several seconds or minutes.
Other narcolepsy symptoms include:
- Sudden loss of muscle tone. This may involve some or all your body's muscles. You may even collapse. Strong emotions such as fear or laughter often trigger loss of muscle tone.
- Being unable to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up.
- Hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there) when falling asleep or waking up.
It can take many years after symptoms first start before a person finds out that he or she has narcolepsy. One reason is that many people do not know about the disorder and do not tell their doctors about their symptoms.
The cause of narcolepsy is not known, although genes seem to play a role. Narcolepsy cannot yet be cured. But there are medicines that can help control the sleepiness and loss of muscle tension.
If you have narcolepsy, getting the right medicines to control your symptoms is important in order to prevent accidents. Falling asleep or losing muscle control at the wrong time, such as when you're driving or walking down stairs, can lead to serious injury or death.
Explore other publications and websites
Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep — This website explains the science of sleep and why it is so important to our well-being. It also offers information about sleep disorders and tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
Narcolepsy and Pregnancy (Copyright © National Sleep Foundation) — This article describes the issues surrounding narcolepsy and pregnancy, including the safety of medication use during pregnancy.
Narcolepsy Fact Sheet — This fact sheet discusses symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options available for people with narcolepsy.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Narcolepsy Information Page — This online publication about narcolepsy provides information on the treatment, prognosis, and research being done.
Connect with other organizations
Center for Narcolepsy, Sleep and Health Research
Narcolepsy Network, Inc.
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, NHLBI, NIH, HHS
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH, HHS
National Sleep Foundation
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
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