5 Common Symptoms of Narcolepsy
Extreme Daytime Sleepiness
It is not uncommon for people of any age and health condition to feel tired periodically throughout the day. People with narcolepsy, though, experience extreme periods of sleepiness that last up to 30 minutes with each occurrence. The extreme daytime sleepiness can cause memory problems, focus issues, a lack of energy and mental cloudiness. People with narcolepsy easily fall into a deep sleep in the middle of an activity, while talking or during meals.
Narcolepsy causes patients to fall into a deep rapid eye movement sleep instantly, whereas people without narcolepsy do not experience this type of sleep for at least 90 minutes after falling asleep. As a result, narcolepsy patients often have vivid dreams right away that can produce hallucinations. The dreams heighten the senses and lead patients to see, hear, taste and smell things while sleeping, dozing or waking.
A patient with narcolepsy may experience difficulty speaking or moving while waking up or falling asleep due to muscle paralysis. The muscles enter a deep sleep right away when a narcoleptic episode occurs, which limits movement and the ability to speak. Muscle paralysis can also occur while the person is awake, but it commonly only last for a few seconds or minutes.
The complications associated with narcolepsy can lead to emotional distress. People with narcolepsy may become angry, surprised or fearful, especially when muscle paralysis or excessive exhaustion exists. In some cases, people with narcolepsy demonstrate strong emotions by laughing uncontrollably, which can trigger cataplexy, a condition that causes the muscles to weaken temporarily within the body while the patient is awake.
People who have narcolepsy often experience challenges with daily functioning. Extreme daytime sleepiness and exhaustion can interrupt tasks at school and on the job or cause individuals to lose focus and concentration. Individuals with narcolepsy may have difficulty remembering tasks, responsibilities and obligations when interrupted by an uncontrollable desire to sleep. Patients who anticipate an unexpected sleep attack may also try and speed up activities, which can result in inaccuracy and mistakes.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable episodes of daytime sleepiness. The condition commonly affects individuals between the ages of 15 and 25 and can cause individuals to fall immediately into a deep sleep that can cause temporary muscle paralysis. Narcolepsy is often undiagnosed, yet people who recognize the symptoms should consult with a physician to develop a treatment plan.