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Grand Strand Medical Center
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Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Symptoms of narcolepsy usually start during the teen or young-adult years. Very few people are younger than age 5 or older than age 50 when symptoms first occur. If you have narcolepsy, symptoms occur even if you have gotten an appropriate amount of sleep. Some people notice that their symptoms grow worse as they age. Some women notice improvement of their symptoms after menopause.

If you have narcolepsy, you may notice any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Overwhelming daytime sleepiness
  • Uncontrollable sleep attacks—These involuntary episodes tend to last between 3–30 minutes. They may occur periodically throughout every day, but may also be brought on by certain triggers, such as:
    • Warm environment
    • Heavy meals
    • Boring and/or sedentary occupations
  • Cataplexy—A sudden and complete loss of muscle tone and strength. Cataplexy can occur at any time during the day and is often brought on by:
    • Intense emotion, such as anger or laughter
    • Stress
    • Being tickled
    • Orgasm
    • Eating a heavy meal
  • Sleep paralysis—A complete or partial inability to move or speak just as sleep or a sleep attack is beginning or ending
  • Hypnogogic hallucinations:
    • Hallucinations usually occur as sleep begins or ends, and while you are waking. They can be very disturbing.
    • They are usually visual images that you see vividly, though they don’t really exist.
    • They can also be tactile and auditory sensations.
  • Automatic behaviour
    • Episodes similar to sleepwalking that may happen during involuntary sleep episodes
    • May include continuation of current activity or meaningless speech
  • Difficulty staying asleep at night
  • Memory problems
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent nighttime waking

Revision Information

  • Narcolepsy. American Sleep Association website. Available at: https://www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/narcolepsy. Updated September 2007. Accessed May 18, 2016.

  • Narcolepsy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 4 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.

  • Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/narcolepsy/detail%5Fnarcolepsy.htm. Updated April 6, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.