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What Happens To A Person With Narcolepsy?

The person with narcolepsy has excessive day time sleepiness and sleep paralysis. Further, the patient also experiences cataplexy. The quality of life is negatively impacted. The risk of an accident significantly increased in the patient of narcolepsy while driving or working on machines.

What Happens To A Person With Narcolepsy?

What Happens To A Person With Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder with a disrupted sleep-wake cycle. The person suffering from narcolepsy has excessive day time sleeping and a variety of related symptoms. Fortunately, the disease is not progressive. Severity increases initially for a few years and later on, the condition gets stabilized. Narcolepsy is generally accompanied by cataplexy, a condition characterized by weak muscle tone. Following are some of the symptoms of narcolepsy:

Excessive Day Time Sleep. Even if the narcoleptic patient has normal sleep at night, he suffers from excessive day time sleepiness1. The person experiences severe tiredness and has an uncontrollable urge to sleep at an inappropriate time. Narcoleptic patients have trouble staying awake for a prolonged period of time and this is more common while doing routine or boring tasks such as driving or routinely working on heavy machinery.

Memory Problems: Although the patient has normal memory when the person does not experience any symptoms, however, due to drowsiness the patient has temporary memory deficit2. The person has difficulty concentrating and have cognitive decline during the symptomatic phase of narcolepsy.

Alteration In Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. It is a distinguishable phase of sleep in which most of the dreaming takes place. The sleep is characterized by rapid eye movement and low muscular tome throughout the body. People with narcolepsy are most commonly have altered rapid eye movement sleep as they may have impaired motor inhibition during rapid eye movement sleep3. This may be caused due to deficiency of hypocretin in cerebrospinal fluid.

Cataplexy. Cataplexy is a condition characterized by weak muscle tone. The patient may have no control over voluntary muscles. This result in slurred speech or the person may not able to walk or sit properly. There may be a total body collapse, although the person does not lose consciousness. Cataplexy is triggered by surprise, anger or laughter1.

Hallucinations. Hallucinations are the dreams that the person suffering from narcolepsy see when either falling asleep or while waking up. When hallucination occurs while sleeping, the condition is known as hypnagogic and when hallucination is experienced while walking, it is known as hypnopompic4.

Fragmented Sleep And Insomnia. The people suffering from narcolepsy have difficulty sleeping during the night although they feel excessive sleepiness throughout the day. People may experience insomnia due to dreaming, sleep apnea, or leg movements5.

Automatic Behaviors. When taking a nap during the day, the drowsiness and fatigue of narcoleptic patients get relived, although temporarily. People continue their activity of driving or doing their work without no or very little conciousness6.

Sleep Paralysis. Patient suffering from sleep paralysis have a variety of symptoms. The patient may have spare respiratory and ocular muscles, and the patient may not be able to move after awakening. When a person sleeps in an uncomfortable position, sleep paralysis does not occur too frequently. When the other person speaks or touches the affected person, sleep paralysis alleviates. In sleep paralysis, the person does not get unconscious but may not be able to think7.

Relationships. The person suffering from narcolepsy has problematic relationships. Extreme sleepiness may lead to affect the romantic relationship. Because of the symptoms of narcolepsy, the patient has a low sex drive that may lead to impotence and infertility8. The social and professional relationships also take a toll due to narcolepsy. The people who do not understand or know about narcolepsy judge the patient as lazy, and lack of energy.


A person suffering from narcolepsy has various disorders related to sleep. Patient experiences excessive day time sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis and insomnia.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 23, 2023

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