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Can You Have Narcolepsy Without Sleep Attacks?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that deviates one’s sleep cycle and wakefulness. It leads to excessive sleepiness in the day that is intermittent and uncontrollable at any time. It can happen during any activity of the day. Its causes are not clear. It is caused by a drop in a chemical named hypocretin in the brain that regulates one’s wakefulness. It starts in the age between 15 to 25 years of age. In many cases, it remains undetected, ignored and untreated. There is no cure known for narcolepsy.

Can You Have Narcolepsy Without Sleep Attacks?

Can You Have Narcolepsy Without Sleep Attacks?

Narcolepsy is a rare chronic condition of the brain due to which a person sleeps suddenly amidst any activity at inappropriate times. This 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 in a person at the young age between 15 to 30 years. Its symptoms are detected in the age of 20 to 40 years.(1)

Narcolepsy is caused by many factors. Scientists are researching the identification of genes that are responsible for this disorder. These genes are supposed to control the production of chemicals in the brain. It is caused by a decrease in the production of a chemical named hypocretin in the brain. These chemicals signal sleep and wake cycles; It is also found in certain researches that this disease may develop due to the appearance of abnormalities in some parts of the brain that work for the regulation of the REM sleep. It may lead to the appearance of the symptoms. According to many scientists, many factors cause interferences in neurological function and REM sleep cycle. (2)

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 in the REM stage as soon as he sleeps without entering the initial stage. (2)

Sleep attacks are the main symptom of narcolepsy. It does not happen without sleep attacks. The sleep attack is characterized by a strong urge to sleep followed by uncontrollable sleep often followed by refreshed feeling. It may happen once in a day or may have frequent attacks that may go up to 10 attacks in a day. It may end in few seconds to few minutes. It is abnormal and can happen at any time during any vigilant or non-vigilant activity. It is often uncontrollable. It may happen during eating, talking to others or other situations. It interferes with normal daily activities and it may be dangerous in certain situations for example during driving. (3)

The sleep attacks are many times not related to sleep at night. This disease causes sleep attacks at inappropriate times. It causes an extreme feeling of drowsiness in the day that may result in problems related to concentration and staying awake. It is often followed by loss of muscle tone that would result in weakness sometimes collapse often aggravated by extreme emotions. It is also called cataplexy. It also causes sleep paralysis in which the patient is unable to respond (move or sleep while asleep or waking up.(1)

Narcolepsy does not impose long term health problems but it interferes with one’s ability to perform daily activities. It may cause emotional draining out.(1)


Narcolepsy is a rare chronic disease of the nervous system in which the patient falls asleep in inappropriate times. It is characterized by sleep attacks or daytime sleepiness at any time during any activity. It never occurs without sleep attacks.


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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:December 23, 2023

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