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Narcolepsy

Lung & Sleep Institute

Pulmonologist, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine Specialist located in White Plains, MD

Narcolepsy is a severe neurological issue that leads to abnormal sleeping habits, often while you’re going about your daily activities. Because narcolepsy can affect your quality of life and is often misdiagnosed, Song C. Chon, MD and Abbas Omais, MD of the Lung & Sleep Institute in White Plains, Maryland, can help you find a solution. Before narcolepsy starts keeping you from doing the things you enjoy, schedule an evaluation. Book your visit by using the online scheduling system or by calling the clinic.

Narcolepsy Q & A

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy involves more than merely falling asleep sporadically throughout the day. This chronic condition is a severe neurological disorder where your brain can’t regulate your sleep-wake cycles. Not only are you going to find it difficult to stay awake for long periods, but you’re also at risk of falling asleep during daily activities like working, eating, or driving.

How do I know if I have narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy causes specific symptoms that usually develop between the ages of 7-25, although the condition can occur even later in life. You’re probably going to experience:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Falling asleep with no warning
  • Decreased alertness
  • Hallucinations or vivid dreams

Narcolepsy is divided into two categories: Type 1 and Type 2. It’s common for Type 1 narcolepsy sufferers to experience a sudden loss of muscle tone, a condition called cataplexy. Type 1 can lead to slurred speech or uncontrollable muscle weakness that makes you go limp.

Not everyone with narcolepsy experiences cataplexy, though. If you don’t have it, the condition is known as Type 2 narcolepsy, or narcolepsy without cataplexy.

In some cases, you might even have obstructive sleep apnea (service 2) or restless leg syndrome alongside narcolepsy. Often, overall narcolepsy symptoms continue to worsen for the first few years, then stabilize and continue for the rest of your life.

Why do I have narcolepsy?

The exact cause of narcolepsy isn’t well understood. Medical experts do find that most men and women who develop narcolepsy have abnormally low levels of hypocretin, a neurochemical that regulates wakefulness and REM sleep.

It’s believed that low hypocretin levels stem from an autoimmune reaction. You might also have narcolepsy if it runs in your family, or if you have damage to your hypothalamus in your brain (secondary narcolepsy).

Is there a cure for narcolepsy?

No, although it can be managed through modern treatments. Dr. Chon and Dr. Omais strive to find the best solution to help improve your quality of life. This process usually requires you to take medications. Narcolepsy drugs work by:

  • Stimulating your central nervous system
  • Suppressing REM sleep cycles
  • Improving nighttime sleep
  • Minimizing issues with loss of muscle tone

The team at the Lung & Sleep Institute can also recommend lifestyle changes that can improve problems with narcolepsy.

If you have narcolepsy, schedule an evaluation at the Lung & Sleep Institute to get started on treatment. Book your appointment online or call the clinic.