Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder caused by a generalized disorganization of the sleep-waking functions within the brain. It often causes excessive daytime sleepiness, regardless of the amount of sleep that you have had. The exact cause remains undetermined but rarely may follow brain trauma or accompany other types of neurologic disease. Tissue typing has shown that some individuals are more genetically susceptible to this disorder.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Generally, the symptoms of narcolepsy are first noticed in teenagers and young adults but may go undiagnosed for years. Another common symptom of this disorder is cataplexy, a partial or complete weakness of the skeletal muscles brought on by intense emotions such as laughter, excitement, or anger. Other symptoms may include (1) sleep attacks—short unintentional periods of sleep during the day; or (2) sleep paralysis—the inability to move as one drifts into or out of sleep. Also, some patients have hypnagogic hallucinations or visual or auditory experiences that occur when going to sleep or waking, which are hard to differentiate from reality. Others have disturbed nighttime sleep including frequent tossing and turning and awakening.

There is no known cure for narcolepsy. No single therapy will control all the symptoms. Some medical stimulants combined with strategically placed 15- to 20-minute naps may improve the otherwise disabling effects of this sleep disorder. The timing and frequency of the scheduled naps has to be determined for each individual according to the usual time of the sleep attacks.

The DOs
• Take your medications as prescribed.
• Get plenty of rest.
• Educate your friends and family about your disorder.

The DON’Ts
• Avoid operating machinery and power tools unless cleared by your physician.
• Do not drive unless approved by your physician.
• Avoid situations that may pose danger for you should you fall asleep or lose muscle control.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you have any problems associated with your medications.
• If your symptoms increase in frequency or severity.