Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes periods of extreme daytime sleepiness. Patients suffering from this disorder may fall asleepsuddenly, even if they’re in the middle of talking, eating, or another activity. Narcolepsy patients may also experience:
- Cataplexy – Strong emotions often trigger a sudden loss of muscle tone while you’re awake.
- Hallucinations – Vivid dreams occur while falling asleep or waking up.
- Sleep paralysis – prevents you from moving or speaking while waking up and sometimes while falling asleep.
Narcolepsy patients often fall into REM sleep quickly and wake up directly from it. This is linked to vivid dreams while waking up and falling asleep. Most people who have narcolepsy have low levels of Hypocretin, a chemical in the brain that helps control levels of wakefulness. Narcolepsy affects between 50,000 and 2.4 million people in the United States. Symptoms usually begin during the teen or young adult years. Due to extreme tiredness, people who have narcolepsy may find it hard to function at school, work, home, and in social situations. Narcolepsy has no cure, but medicines and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms.