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Can You Be Misdiagnosed With Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disease that develops due to the dysfunction of the brain. It is characterized by excessive daytime dreaminess and sleep attacks at inappropriate times. It develops in young adolescence age in between 15-30 years. There can be many causes of this disease. One of its causes is reduced the production of a chemical named hypocretin in the brain that monitors the sleep-wake cycle in a person. It often remains misdiagnosed or undiagnosed due to its rare presence in the population.

Can You Be Misdiagnosed With Narcolepsy?

Can You Be Misdiagnosed With Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a rare chronic condition of the brain due to which a person sleeps suddenly amidst any activity at inappropriate times. It results in the inability of the brain to regulate sleeping or waking patterns. It is not clear that how many people are affected as most cases are not reported or noticed. It tends to develop equally in both men and women. In some studies, it has been suggested that it develops more commonly in men. It develops at a young age between 15 to 30 years. Its symptoms are detected in the age of 20 to 40 years.(1)

Narcolepsy is a rare medical condition. Its incidences are also low. It is estimated that 1 out of 2000 people in the US have narcolepsy. It is not recognized as other diseases like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc. Many people who have this disease often do not recognize that they have a health problem.(2)

Nearly 50 percent of people with narcolepsy state that they noticed these symptoms of this disease before the age of 18 years. They tend to consult many doctors for relief on average 6 doctors. It may be mistaken as a sign of laziness, or low confidence or lack of motivation. Undiagnosed narcolepsy results in many problems in the daily routine.(2)

In many cases, narcolepsy is misdiagnosed as other health ailments like depression, anxiety, insomnia, psychiatric problems, learning disabilities, epilepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).(2)

Narcolepsy is often misdiagnosed with sleep apnea. Both the disease have different origins and different causes but both the disease cause excessive sleepiness in the daytime. They, in turn, may lead to excessive lethargy and fatigue in the daytime. It is possible that a person may have both diseases at the same time. However, it is not known how they manifest their symptoms at the same time. Often, narcolepsy is misdiagnosed with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea may interrupt the diagnosis and may delay the evaluation of narcolepsy. It also interferes with the treatment initiatives of narcolepsy.(3)

Sleep apnea and narcolepsy are sleep disorders. But people perceive them as a lifestyle disease and blame them as bad habits or act of laziness. The person with sleep disorders tends to sleep at any place at any time during the day in spite of good sleep at night. They feel tired and lethargic throughout the day and feel refreshed when they sleep in the day. Both the diseases have similar symptoms and so are often misdiagnosed.(3)

Narcolepsy happens due to dysfunction of the nervous system in which the brain is unable to regulate sleep-wake cycles. It is a harmless condition but it may interfere with one’s daily routine. On the other hand, sleep apnea occurs due to narrowing or collapse of the upper respiratory tract. It is a breathing-related disease that may lead to loud snoring and choking. Its onset starts at the age of 50 years or above especially in obese men.(3)


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that starts at a young age. It is a rare disease that often remains undetected or misdiagnosed. It is often misdiagnosed as sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, and others mentioned above. Most people neglect it by considering it as an act of laziness or bad habit.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 23, 2023

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