Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder of the nervous system— affecting approximately 1 in 2,000 people, according to the National Sleep Foundation — yet it can make life very challenging for those who have it. Narcolepsy can prompt sleepiness so severe that a person may nod off without warning — in the middle of a conversation, cooking a meal or crossing the street.
Narcolepsy does not have one definitive cause. However, a common culprit is a low level of hypocretin: A protein in the brain that is responsible for alertness. Genetics also play a role as this disorder can run in families.
If left untreated, narcolepsy can interfere with work or school performance, disrupt personal relationships and cause problems with mood. It can also increase the risk of accident or injury since overwhelming sleepiness can strike at any time. MultiCare’s sleep medicine specialists partner with you to treat your symptoms so you can focus on leading a full life.
A lifelong condition, narcolepsy can affect anyone. Symptoms vary from person to person and typically first appear between 15 and 25 years of age. Common signs of narcolepsy include:
If you suspect you have narcolepsy, you may need to undergo a sleep study [link to Sleep Study Page] in one of MultiCare’s state-of-the-art sleep centers. Our specialists will review your study results and work with you to find the best course of treatment. Common treatment options include:
Medications: A combination of medications, such as stimulants or antidepressants, can be effective at controlling daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. Your sleep specialist will discuss these options with you.
Improving Sleep Hygiene: Forming habits that support sleep, such as establishing a relaxing bedtime routine and limiting evening screen time, can improve the quality of nighttime rest.
Napping: Consistently incorporating naps into your daily routine can help alleviate daytime sleepiness.
The specific treatment or treatments recommended for you will depend on the cause and severity of your narcolepsy, as well as your overall health.
If you would like to be evaluated for a sleep concern, call to schedule an appointment with one of our locations. Note that some insurance policies require a doctor referral for our services. Check with your insurance before your appointment to verify your coverage.