- The word narcolepsy comes from two Greek words roughly translated as "seized by numbness."
- Narcolepsy affects around 1 in 2,000 people.
- The hallmark symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness and temporary and sudden muscle weakness (called cataplexy), usually brought on by strong emotions.
- Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder. It is not caused by mental illness or psychological problems.
- Narcolepsy most likely involves a combination of genetics and one or more environmental triggers, such as infection, trauma, immune system problems, or stress.
- Nearly 98% of patients with narcolepsy and cataplexy test positive for specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) subtypes, particularly HLA-DQB1*0602. This antigen is found in just 20% of the general population.
- Narcolepsy symptoms usually first appear in adolescence or young adulthood.
- Having a family member with narcolepsy presents a 20 to 40 times higher risk of developing the condition compared to the general population.
- Lifestyle treatment of narcolepsy includes taking three or more scheduled sleep-times/naps throughout the day.
- The main drug treatments for narcolepsy are:
- Modafinil (Provigil) for excessive, uncontrollable, daytime sleepiness
- Armodafinil (Nuvigil) for excessive, uncontrollable, daytime sleepiness
- Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) for cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness) for excessive daytime sleepiness
Review Date: 07/04/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.