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Can A Home Sleep Study Diagnose Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes excessive sleepiness in the daytime with abnormal sleep attacks. It can represent its symptoms at any time in the day which is often not related to the proper sleep at the night. Its exact causes are unknown. It occurs due to the dysfunction of the brain to secrete chemicals needed to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Its other symptoms involve sleep attacks, fatigue, lethargy, and many more. It can be diagnosed only in a specialized sleep lab that cannot be detected in-home sleep test.

Can A Home Sleep Study Diagnose Narcolepsy?

Can A Home Sleep Study Diagnose Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that leads to excessive sleepiness in the daytime and sleep attacks at inappropriate times. It starts at a young age of 15 to 30 years. It is a rare condition and is often ignored or misdiagnosed. Some people consider excessive sleepiness as an act of laziness or low interest in the activities. It is represented by uncontrollable sleep attacks at any time in the day in spite of proper sleep at night.(1)

According to many scientists, many factors cause interferences in neurological function and REM sleep cycle in narcolepsy. In the normal sleep cycle, every person enters the early stage of sleep and then enters into deep sleep stage. Then he enters into REM sleep stage. But in narcolepsy, this cycle is disturbed, the patient enters directly in the REM stage as soon as he sleeps without entering the initial stage.(1)

Narcolepsy is diagnosed on the basis of several tests. A single test cannot confirm the diagnosis of this disorder. A home sleep study cannot diagnose narcolepsy. This is because specialized tests are required to study the sleep-wake cycle. A home sleep study cannot record deep sleep and REM stages. These tests are performed in a sleep disorders clinic.(2)

Two tests that are essential to establish the diagnosis of narcolepsy is polysomnogram (PSG) and multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT). Another test named the Epworth Sleepiness Scale is needed for the measurement of daytime sleepiness.(2)

Epworth Sleepiness Scale is designed in such a manner that it has scores designed for its questions. There are a total of eight questions that have scores ranging from 0-24. Score 0 states that the patient will not sleep. Score three states that he is likely to sleep. The score below 10 is considered normal. A score equal to 10 or above needs further tests that confirm sleep disorder.(2)

Polysomnogram (PSG) is a test used to monitor the physical activity of various body parts during sleep such as the movement of muscles, breathing patterns, and activity of the brain. in this test, an electronic device records and monitor them. These recordings can be understood and analyzed by qualified sleep specialist only.(2)

Multiple Sleep Latency Test is a sleep test that is also performed in sleep lab after an overnight polysomnogram. This test is used to measure the time taken by a person to sleep during the day. It is designed in a pattern that the patient is asked to take four to five naps every two hours. The first nap is scheduled two hours after waking up in the morning. People who have normal sleep and alertness take ten to twenty minutes to sleep. The patients of narcolepsy sleep earlier than healthy people.

Before these tests, the patient is asked to maintain a sleep diary that may have data of sleep wake up and nap times. The doctors also stop certain medicines that may influence the results of sleep tests.(2)


Narcolepsy is a neurological disease marked by excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks in the day. It affects the sleep-wake cycle of a person. In this disorder, the patient enters the REM cycle very earlier before healthy people. It cannot be detected by a home sleep study. It is diagnosed in sleep labs under the observation of sleep specialist.


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 12, 2019

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