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What Are The Early Signs Of Narcolepsy?

Do you sleep frequently at an inappropriate time or often struggle to stay concentrated and awake? If yes, then probably it is the time to visit a sleep specialist as these are the general symptoms of narcolepsy. Most of the people do not know that they are suffering from narcolepsy, a neurological disorder as most of the symptoms overlap with conditions such as tiredness. Many a time, the condition gets overlooked by many doctors. Narcolepsy is a chronic condition and generally, it does not progress with age. As age increases, the condition may improve but does not disappear permanently.

Narcolepsy goes undiagnosed for a long time because the early symptoms overlap with the general fatigue and the symptoms are mild. Accurate diagnosis of the condition is done to provide proper treatment.

What Are The Early Signs Of Narcolepsy?

What Are The Early Signs Of Narcolepsy?

In most of the cases, the symptoms of narcolepsy start at a younger but it takes several years to get it diagnosed. It has been estimated that on an average people visit at least 6 doctors before they have accurate diagnosis5. Early signs of narcolepsy include excessive day time sleepiness, cataplexy, and automatic behaviors. Although the condition does not progress but many symptoms such as sleep paralysis may occur afterward.

Following are some of the symptoms of narcolepsy:

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Sleepiness in narcolepsy comes suddenly like an attack, in which the patient experiences a sudden and desperate urge to sleep. The day time sleepiness in narcolepsy is regardless of the sleep patient gets at night1. It is to be noted that in between the sleep attacks, the patient behaves normally and remains alert.

Fragmented Sleep And Insomnia: Patients suffering from narcolepsy may difficulty sleeping at night. The patient experiences fragmented sleep or insomnia. Sleep may be disturbed due to hallucinations, dreaming, sleep apnea, and periodic leg movements1.

Automatic Behaviors: The patient suffering from narcolepsy has frequent brief sleeping episodes lasting for a few seconds. The person continues to do the activity without any knowledge of what he is doing. This becomes a danger if the person is working on a machine or driving a vehicle as it may lead to life-changing accidents1.

Hallucinations: Patient experience hallucinations along with the sleep paralysis. Awkward and frightening images are seen to patients suffering from narcolepsy1. When the hallucination occurs while sleeping, the condition is known as hypnagogic hallucinations and when it occurs during awakening, the condition is termed as hypnopompic hallucinations2.

Cataplexy: Cataplexy is the condition characterized by the sudden loss of muscle tone. There is muscular weakness and the patient loses control over voluntary muscles. Some of the patients have few attacks of cataplexy in their lifetime while the other has many attacks in a single day. Cataplexy includes several symptoms such as total body collapse and slurred speech2. The symptoms of cataplexy may be mild to severe. The attack of cataplexy may be triggered by emotions such as anger, surprise or laughter.

Sleep Paralysis: The patients with narcolepsy suffer from sleep paralysis. These patients are not in the position to move or speak after waking or during sleep. Sleep paralysis occurs about a very small time period ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. Sleep paralysis is not an exclusive symptom of narcolepsy as this may be seen in patients who are not suffering from narcolepsy3.

Alteration In Rapid Eye Movement Sleep: This is a type of sleep occurs when the person dreams. The patient with narcolepsy indulges in rapid eye movement sleep at any time of the day3.
Memory Problems: The patient experiences trouble in memorizing the things that people have said as they were not in a fully awake situation4.


Although generally start at an early age, it takes quite long for an accurate diagnosis. The signs related to narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, automatic behaviors, and memory problems.


Also Read:

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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