What is narcolepsy?

Dr. Long-Prentice discusses narcolepsy. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.



Narcolepsy is a rare but serious sleeping disorder that causes people to fall asleep during the day. These “sleep attacks” can happen just about anytime and anywhere, and usually last about 10 or 15 minutes. They can happen several times a day. The person is genuinely sleeping during that time and wakes up feeling refreshed.

Less than one percent of the population has narcolepsy. The cause is not known, but it might be genetic. Although the symptoms can be scary, narcolepsy can be treated with medicine, lifestyle changes and a regular sleep and nap schedule.

Symptoms of narcolepsy:

  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Sudden loss of muscle control (head nods or body goes limp, called cataplexy)
  • Hallucinations upon sleeping or waking
  • Not being able to talk or move when falling asleep or waking (sleep paralysis)

If you have sleep attacks or other signs above, see your doctor. He or she may suggest you get a sleep study to find out if you have narcolepsy or another sleep disorder.