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Narcolepsy

A sleep disorder characterized by a tendency for excessive sleepiness during the day which occurs even after adequate sleep in the nighttime.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy (NAR-ko-lep-se) is a disorder that causes periods of extreme daytime sleepiness. The disorder also may cause muscle weakness.

Most people who have narcolepsy have trouble sleeping at night. Some people who have the disorder fall asleep suddenly, even if they're in the middle of talking, eating, or another activity.

Narcolepsy also can cause:

  • Cataplexy (KAT-ah-plek-se). This condition causes a sudden loss of muscle tone while you're awake. Muscle weakness can affect certain parts of your body or your whole body. For example, if cataplexy affects your hand, you may drop what you're holding. Strong emotions often trigger this weakness. It may last seconds or minutes.
  • Hallucinations (ha-lu-sih-NA-shuns). These vivid dreams occur while falling asleep or waking up.
  • Sleep paralysis (pah-RAL-ih-sis). This condition prevents you from moving or speaking while waking up and sometimes while...

Read more about Narcolepsy

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Antidepressant drugs for narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system, the main symptoms of which are excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and cataplexy (an abrupt and reversible decrease in or loss of muscle tone, affecting the limbs and/or trunk, elicited by emotional stimuli). Narcolepsy has an adverse impact on people's quality of life. Together with stimulant drugs (used to control EDS), antidepressants are usually recommended to counteract cataplexy. In addition, some antidepressants are also reported to improve EDS. Five trials with 246 participants were included. There is no evidence that antidepressants have a beneficial effect on narcolepsy. Moreover, despite the clinical consensus recommending their use for cataplexy, there is scarce evidence to support the use of antidepressant drugs to treat this symptom.

Modafinil for narcolepsy: systematic review and meta-analysis

BACKGROUND: To assess the effectiveness and safety of modafinil vs. no active treatment or other drugs in the treatment of narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy and effectiveness of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB): a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

This review found that gamma hydroxybutyrate provided statistically significant benefits in patients with narcolepsy. Limited quality assessment of the included trials and significant variation across the results make the reliability of the authors' conclusions uncertain.

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Summaries for consumers

Antidepressant drugs for narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system, the main symptoms of which are excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and cataplexy (an abrupt and reversible decrease in or loss of muscle tone, affecting the limbs and/or trunk, elicited by emotional stimuli). Narcolepsy has an adverse impact on people's quality of life. Together with stimulant drugs (used to control EDS), antidepressants are usually recommended to counteract cataplexy. In addition, some antidepressants are also reported to improve EDS. Five trials with 246 participants were included. There is no evidence that antidepressants have a beneficial effect on narcolepsy. Moreover, despite the clinical consensus recommending their use for cataplexy, there is scarce evidence to support the use of antidepressant drugs to treat this symptom.

Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children

Children (< 16 years old) and the elderly (above 65 years old) are the two age groups that appear to have the most complications following an influenza infection. Influenza has a viral origin and often results in an acute respiratory illness affecting the lower or upper parts of the respiratory tract, or both. Viruses are mainly of two subtypes (A or B) and spread periodically during the autumn‐winter months. However, many other viruses can also cause respiratory tract illnesses.

Effects of opioid, hypnotic and sedating medications on obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in adults with known OSA

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder characterised by intermittent apnoeas (pauses in breathing) leading to dips in oxygen levels in the blood during sleep. Many people with known or unknown (undiagnosed) OSA receive hypnotics, sedatives and opiate/opioid drugs to treat other conditions including pain, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Opiates/opioids are commonly prescribed to treat pain after major surgery. These drugs might make sleep apnoea worse ‐ increasing the frequency and duration of apnoeas.

More about Narcolepsy

Photo of a young adult

Also called: Gelineau's syndrome, Paroxysmal sleep, Narcoleptic syndrome

Other terms to know:
Hallucinations, Sleep

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