Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) to see how long it takes you to fall asleep during a daytime nap. Patients with narcolepsy fall asleep much faster than people without the condition.
There is no known cure for narcolepsy. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.
Lifestyle changes and emotional counseling may help you do better in work and social activities. This involves:
Eating light or vegetarian meals during the day and avoiding heavy meals before important activities
Planning naps to control daytime sleep and reduce the number of unplanned, sudden sleep attacks
Scheduling a brief nap (10 to 15 minutes) after meals, if possible
Telling teachers and supervisors about the condition so you are not punished for being "lazy" at school or work
You may need to take prescription medications to help you stay awake. The stimulant drug armodafinil is usually tried first. It is much less likely to be abused than other stimulants. Other stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, DextroStat) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).
Antidepressant medications can help reduce episodes of cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations. Antidepressants include:
Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, or citalopram
Tricyclic antidepressants such as protriptyline or imipramine
Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) is prescribed to some patients for use at night.
If you have narcolepsy, you may have driving restrictions. Restrictions vary from state to state.
Narcolepsy is lifelong (chronic) condition.
It is not deadly, but it may be dangerous if episodes occur during driving, operating machinery, or similar activities.
Narcolepsy can usually be controlled with treatment. Treating other underlying sleep disorders can improve symptoms of narcolepsy.
Difficulty functioning at work
Difficulty with social activities
Injuries and accidents, if attacks occur during activities
Side effects of medications used to treat the disorder
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
You have symptoms of narcolepsy
Narcolepsy does not respond to treatment, or you develop other symptoms
There is no known way to prevent narcolepsy. Treatment may reduce the number of attacks. Avoid situations that aggravate the condition if you are prone to attacks of narcolepsy.
Biller J, Love BB, Schneck MJ. Sleep and its disorders. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 72.
Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.