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What is Narcolepsy?

21:55 - 4 May , 2021


It is a chronic sleep disorder in which intense drowsiness is experienced throughout the day with sudden crises that lead to falling asleep, which produces serious problems, in addition to the hindrance of daily activities due to difficulty staying awake for a long time in all kinds of contexts and circumstances.

In some cases, this sleep disorder appears along with cataplexy, which is the sudden loss of muscle tone.

There are two types of narcolepsy:

  • Type 1: when accompanied by cataplexy.
  • Type 2: without cataplexy.

Although the causes are unknown, it has been identified that those who suffer from narcolepsy have a decrease in hypocretin, which is a neurochemical that contributes to the control of sleep and wakefulness, with levels being even lower in patients with type 1 narcolepsy.

Cell involvement for hypocretin production in the brain is apparently due to autoimmune reactions in the body. So far, it is an incurable condition, whose treatment focuses on symptom control and improving the patient’s quality of life.

Signs and symptoms Narcolepsy

It is characterized by:

  • REM alterations: refers to rapid eye movement, which is the phase where dreams occur. In narcoleptics, this phase can come at any time.
  • Hallucinations: when waking up or falling asleep.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Marked daytime sleepiness.
  • Cataplexy.
  • Sleep paralysis attacks.

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor so that you can be diagnosed and treated promptly, avoiding its advance and possible complications.

Diagnosis and treatment Narcolepsy

Based on your symptoms, clinical history, and physical examination, if your doctor suspects narcolepsy, you will be referred to a center specializing in sleep disorders, where you will undergo an exhaustive sleep analysis to confirm the diagnosis and determine the degree of the disorder, which may include tests such as:

  • Epworth sleepiness scale: with this questionnaire, it is possible to establish your level of sleepiness and create a clinical sleep history.
  • Sleep patterns: your sleep pattern is determined through a record of your sleeping habits.
  • Polysomnography: through electrodes placed on your head, specialists measure the respiratory process, and the electrical activities of the brain, heart, eyes, and muscles overnight.
  • Multiple sleep test: measures the time it takes to fall asleep during several daytime naps, if it takes very little time and you also quickly enter the REM phase, it is an important indicator of narcolepsy.

Being a chronic and incurable disease, there is no specific treatment for narcolepsy, but it is possible to control the symptoms through drugs and adopt healthy habits to improve your quality of life. Drugs used to treat narcolepsy:

  • Stimulants.
  • Serotonin inhibitors.
  • Antidepressants.

At the Neurological Center, a select group of highly trained and certified doctors in the various neurological specialties are ready to assist you with the quality and warmth that characterizes us. Our mission is to provide you with comprehensive and multidisciplinary care programs for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of nervous system diseases, always focusing our activities on your safety.



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  • Neurophysiology
  • Neuro-rehabilitation
  • Neuro-pathology
  • Interventional neuro-radiology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Neuro-oncology
  • Neuro-otology
  • Epilepsy
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Neuroimaging


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  • Botebol-Benhamou G, Aguilar-Andújar M, Díaz-Ruiz R, et al. Trastorno alimentario relacionado con el sueño: Una causa de obesidad. Rev Endocrinol Nutr. 2010;18(2):103-107.
  • Martínez EA, Reyes FJL. Presentación de narcolepsia como epilepsia parcial. Acta Med. 2012;10(2):96-98.

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