Outline for Narcolepsy
• First discovery of Narcoleptic like symptoms was founded by two German doctors in the 1870’s.
• 1877 – by Westphal
• 1878 – by Fisher
• They described their patients falling asleep randomly throughout the day under certain circumstances.
• Patients described having dream like hallucinations while awake.
• They also described having automatic behavior.
• 1880 – French doctor Gélineau recognized Narcolepsy as a disorder.
• He combined two Greek words, Narke (numbness) and Lepsis (attack) and got narcolepsie.
• He described the disorder as a sleep attack that followed intense motion.
• 1902 – Loëwenfeld separated the sleep attacks and muscle weaknesses.
• He named the muscle weaknesses cataplexy.
Narcolepsy – what is it?
• It is a frequent and lifelong disorder.
• A narcoleptic person usually has
o Periods of daytime sleepiness
o and sometimes hallucinations
• It is a neurological chronic disorder.
• It affects the part of the brain that regulates when to be awake and when to be asleep.
• It affects 50,000 people out of 2.4 million in the United states/1 out of every 2,000 people.
• Most people who are narcoleptic experience symptoms between the ages of 10 and 25.
• Usually begin in the teenage years and the disorder progresses and gets worse with age if not treated properly.
• Excessive daytime sleepiness.
• Abnormal REM sleep & rapid entry into REM (narcoleptic people usually hit the REM sleep within 15 minutes unlike a normal 90 minutes)
• Sleep paralysis – unable to move for a few minutes.
• Cataplexy – weaknesses of muscle – triggered by emotion.
• Hypnagogic hallucinations – dream like visual and auditory hallucinations.
• Micro sleep – brief periods of sleep when a person falls asleep but continues with regular (automatic behavior) activity. They awaken with no memories of it.
• It’s usually easy to diagnosis a person narcoleptic because the symptoms are almost always present.
• Multiple sleep latency tests are suggested like…
o Epworth Sleepiness Scale
o Nocturnal polysommogram
o Spinal fluid analysis.
• The tests are administered at a sleep disorder clinic and they test for…
o Daytime sleepiness
o Night time insomnia
o Short latency prior to the first REM period test
• Narcolepsy has no cure.
• It is a lifelong illness/disorder.
• Counseling or support groups are effective – narcoleptic episodes can cause one to be
• Talking with others about your disorder and help you cope with the disorder.
• Medications also help…
o Antidepressants – keep your thoughts about the illness away
o Stimulants – keep you awake
o Sodium oxybate – central nervous system drug used to treat cataplexy
• Changing your behavior along with medications or other help can help you control narcolepsy.
• Schedule 10-15 minute sleep periods and have a good night’s sleep
• Avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol.
• Don’t focus on larger tasks, but break them down.
• Exercise daily
• Avoid dangerous activities.
• Wear a medical necklace or bracelet.