Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations (visual and/or auditory), and, in some cases, cataplexy or the sudden loss of muscle control. The disorder usually begins during childhood or adolescence and affects approximately 0.04% of the general population. Narcolepsy with cataplexy (known as type 1) is caused by the loss of hypocretin-producing neurons. Hypocretin is a peptide that plays a key role in the regulation of wakefulness (sleep/wake cycles).
Although the diagnosis of narcolepsy with cataplexy is relatively straightforward, the diagnosis of narcolepsy without cataplexy (type 2) can be challenging. While there’s currently no cure for the disorder, treatments involving lifestyle adjustments and pharmacologic options can greatly improve symptoms.