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Diagnosis of Narcolepsy

If you have classic symptoms of narcolepsy, such as involuntary sleep attacks and weakness attacks, the diagnosis of your disorder may be simple. If your doctor isn’t sure whether your symptoms are caused by narcolepsy, other tests may be ordered, such as:

  • Polysomnogram tests—For this test, you’ll have to spend the night in a sleep center. Tiny electrodes will be attached to various areas of your body in order to closely monitor your heart rate, eye movements, brain waves, and muscle activity throughout the night. Monitors will also record information about your breathing, changes in the concentration of oxygen in your blood, and your body position. People with narcolepsy go in and out of deep sleep more quickly.
  • Multiple sleep latency test—This test is usually done the day after the polysomnogram. With the same set of electrodes still attached, you’ll be asked to take a series of 20-minute naps, every 2 hours throughout the day. The electrodes collect information about how quickly you fall asleep and how quickly you reach various levels of sleep, particularly rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Questionnaires will also be used. People with narcolepsy fall asleep more quickly.
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References

Narcolepsy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116132/Narcolepsy. Updated January 4, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Narcolepsy. American Sleep Association website. Available at: https://www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/narcolepsy. Updated September 2007. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
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Updated April 6, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015

 

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