Eventually, excessive daytime drowsiness leads to uncontrollable daytime sleeping. Sleep episodes commonly last about 15 minutes. You may experience several such episodes each day. You may feel quite refreshed when you wake up, but may experience another episode shortly thereafter.
You may fall asleep at unexpected times, such as during class, work, or while driving. The episodes of unexpected daytime sleeping most frequently occur after eating meals and during periods of physical inactivity or low mental stimulation. Uncontrolled narcolepsy increases the risk for injury and accidents.
Some people with narcolepsy experience a loss of muscle tone, generalize weakness, or temporary paralysis during sleep and wake transitions. Some people experience hallucinations, seeing or hearing things that are not really there especially right before falling asleep or immediately upon awakening. Uncontrolled narcolepsy may interfere with your job, school, relationships, and activities.
You may be referred to other specialists, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, or sleep medicine doctor. A clinical sleep study may be conducted to learn more about how your body functions while you sleep. A Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) is helpful for confirming the diagnosis of narcolepsy. The test evaluates how long it takes a person to fall asleep for daytime naps and whether Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep occurs during the naps. The MSLT is a measure of daytime sleepiness.
Am I at RiskBecause the cause of narcolepsy is unknown, the risk factors are not well understood. It is known that narcolepsy affects both men and women equally. The first symptom is usually excessive daytime drowsiness. You should talk to your doctor about any concerns that you have. The doctor may ask if other family members are affected.
ComplicationsAsk your doctor about safety precautions specific to you. Operating machinery or driving is dangerous during unexpected sleep episodes. Some states have driving restrictions for people with narcolepsy, so you should check with your doctor or state department of motor vehicles.
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The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.