Understanding Narcolepsy With and Without Cataplexy

May 7th 2016


Not all individuals with narcolepsy experience cataplexy or muscle weakness. Cataplexy causes involuntary muscle loss and weakness, ranging from body collapses to slurred speech. The most common symptom of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness. Many patients experience a lack of energy and concentration during the day as well as extreme exhaustion, memory lapses, mental cloudiness and depressed moods, especially when sleep attacks occur. Hallucinations can accompany sleep onsets or when people with narcolepsy awake from a sleep attack. Some patients also experience a brief inability to speak or move when waking up or falling asleep.


The cause of both narcolepsy and cataplexy has not yet been determined, but researchers speculate that genetics play a role in the development of the neurological disorder. People who suffer from infections in the body may be more at risk for narcolepsy and cataplexy. Abnormalities within the brain may contribute to symptoms of cataplexy and narcolepsy, especially when the brain has a deficiency of the production of hypocretin chemicals.

Medical Treatments

Treatment options vary based on the severity of the condition and the presence of cataplexy. Most patients with narcolepsy take stimulant drugs to stay awake during the day. Common non-addictive medications used to treat narcolepsy and cataplexy include modafinil or armodafinil. Other medications to increase focus and alertness may also be prescribed as well, such as methylphenidate. Physicians may also treat narcolepsy and cataplexy with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to suppress REM sleep and reduce muscle weakness, sleep paralysis and hallucinations. Some patients with cataplexy may take tricyclic antidepressants or sodium oxybate.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes and home remedies can help to treat the symptoms of cataplexy and narcolepsy. Patients should establish a consistent schedule that includes short naps during the day and timely sleep at night. Nicotine and alcohol should be avoided, as these substances can increase the risk of signs and symptoms. Narcolepsy victims also benefit from regular exercise, which can help them stay more alert during the day.


Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and uncontrollable episodes of sleep, especially during the daytime. The neurological disorder prompts sleep attacks that can occur during activity throughout the day. Narcolepsy can also produce a state of cataplexy, where individuals experience a sudden loss of muscle tone that affect various parts of the body.

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