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by Jenna Hollenstein, MS, RD
Narcolepsy is a disorder of the nervous system. It results in frequent, involuntary episodes of sleep during the day. Sleep attacks can occur while you drive, talk, or work.
The cause is unknown. It is thought to have a genetic link. There is increasing evidence that it may be an autoimmune disorder. In this type of disorder, the body’s own immune system attacks a part of the brain.
Risk Factors TOP
Having family members with narcolepsy is a risk factor for the condition.
Symptoms usually start during the teenage years. Onset may range from 5-50 years old. Symptoms may worsen with age. They may improve in women after menopause.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If narcolepsy is suspected, you may be referred to a specialist in sleep disorders.
Tests may include:
Treatment may include:
Other treatment options include:
There are no guidelines to prevent narcolepsy. But, you can try to prevent symptoms by:
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council of Canada
Bhat A, El Sohl AA. Management of narcolepsy. Expert Opin Pharmacotherapy. 2008;9(10):1721-1733.
Dauvilliers Y, Arnulf I, et al. Narcolepsy with cataplexy. Lancet. 2007;369:499-511.
Feldman NT. Narcolepsy. Southern Medical Journal. 2003;96:277-282.
Narcolepsy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116132/Narcolepsy. Updated January 4, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 2016. Accessed June 20, 2016.
Narcolepsy: new understanding of irresistible sleep. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2001.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 6/3/2015
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