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Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that typically begins in teenagers, characterized by daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable urges to sleep. It may include sudden muscle weakness at times of strong emotions. This sleep disorder is surprisingly common – affecting about 1 in every 2,000 people – yet many people don’t know they have it. The urge to sleep can even occur while engaged in activities like eating, walking, and driving. 

Different Types of Narcolepsy

What types of narcolepsy are there? Many people don’t know that there are two different types. 

Narcolepsy Type 1 – Involving a combination of excessive tiredness and the sudden loss of muscle tone and/or a deficiency of hypocretin. 

Narcolepsy Type 2 – Includes excessive sleepiness which usually manifests as frequent nodding off and napping. 

Common Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Daytime sleepiness 
  • Falling asleep while engaged in activity 
  • Cataplexy 
  • Sleep paralysis 
  • Memory difficulty 
  • Hallucinations 

Long-Term Effects of Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a lifelong condition that affects the ability to control sleep-wake cycles. It can make it difficult to carry out normal, daily activities and do things that require concentration, such as driving. 

Can A Sleep Study Diagnose Narcolepsy?

To diagnose narcolepsy, your doctor should consider your medical and family history. A sleep study serves to confirm the diagnosis by measuring the time it takes to fall asleep and the onset of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We also look for signs of disturbed nighttime sleep patterns. This testing method is called multiple sleep latency testing. 

Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)

If a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) is being performed, you will need to stay overnight at the sleep lab and for part of the following day. During the MSLT, you will take a series of scheduled naps beginning the morning after your overnight stay. Between naps, you are encouraged to stay awake and move around. The amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep and the patterns of your sleep will be monitored using polysomnographic equipment. 

The purpose is to see if the patient falls asleep during these short periods of time, how long it takes to fall asleep, and which stages of sleep they experience. This test helps the physician differentiate between narcolepsy and other disorders of excessive somnolence. 

Medical Treatment for Narcolepsy

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for narcolepsy. But the symptoms can be effectively managed through self-care, practicing healthy sleep habits, and medication if required. 

You can successfully manage narcolepsy and accurate sleep analysis can helps begin the process. Contact our certified clinicians to learn more. 

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