How We Can Help
Narcolepsy Treatment Information
IU Health Sleep Disorders physicians work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle. Your plan may include:
- Medical history. Our physicians take a thorough medical history to rule out other causes of your symptoms. For instance, excessive daytime sleepiness may be caused by insomnia or a medication you are taking.
- Overnight sleep study. A nighttime sleep study monitors your brain activity and other bodily functions during sleep to assess if you are sleeping well. This test also helps check for other conditions that can cause daytime sleepiness such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. During an overnight sleep study, also called a polysomnogram, we take multiple measurements using cannulas, belts and electrodes attached to your skin with an adhesive. Electrodes are small metal discs. They do not cause any pain, though they cause minor discomfort. We measure your eye movements, brain activity and take a video of you sleeping. These measurements let us map out your sleep pattern and note any abnormalities. We offer sleep studies at home and at our clinics, depending on your health and needs.
- Multiple sleep latency test. During this daytime sleep study, our physicians observe how long it takes you to fall asleep in a quiet room and if there are any irregularities of the normal sleep-wake cycle. Like with an overnight sleep study, you have electrodes attached to your skin with an adhesive. The electrodes take measurements of your brain activity so we know exactly how long it takes you to fall asleep and to enter rapid-eye-movement sleep. These measurements help us diagnose sleep disorders like narcolepsy.
- Education. Certain lifestyle changes along with good sleep hygiene help you control your narcolepsy. For instance, having a set bedtime and a cool, dark place to sleep can lead to better quality sleep. Eating a good diet and exercising frequently also improves sleep quality.
- Medicine therapies. Stimulant medicines assist you in staying awake throughout the day. Certain stimulants can cause addiction, so you should take them exactly as your doctor prescribes. They may also cause side effects such as headaches or heart palpitations. If you experience these symptoms, tell your physician. You may take other medicines, such as sodium oxybate, to help you sleep and get rid of symptoms of cataplexy. If you sleepwalk or have other sleep behaviors, this medicine may make it worse. These medicines may not help everyone. Our physicians work with you to find the best medicine for your specific condition.
- Cognitive behavioral therapies. Speaking with a sleep psychologist reduces stress associated with sleep and improves your ability to sleep. When you have issues sleeping, they can make you anxious about sleeping and make you hold false beliefs about how you have to sleep. We talk to you about any false beliefs you have about sleep and teach you how to act around bedtime in order to fall asleep easier.
- Nap therapy. For some patients, scheduled short naps of about 20 minutes throughout the day decrease the number of sleep attacks. They can also reduce sleepiness and keep you more alert. This technique usually works best for children and can be difficult for adults to implement into their daily lives.
Narcolepsy Locations & Physicians
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Narcolepsy Support Services
Resources and more information are available from a variety of organizations.
A Sampling of Narcolepsy Support Services
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
This website provides extensive information on narcolepsy, its causes and its treatments.