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Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks (episodes in which you fall asleep in inappropriate places). People with narcolepsy experience irregularities in the normal sleep-wake cycle and fall into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep much more quickly. It is often underdiagnosed or unrecognized by people who suffer from the disorder. Narcolepsy disrupts your daily activities and may cause you to feel depressed, constantly fatigued or like you cannot concentrate. It can even lead to weight gain when left untreated.

Narcolepsy is caused when the brain does not produce enough hypocretin, a chemical that controls wakefulness and appetite. This may be caused by genetic factors, injury or even autoimmune disorders where the body attacks certain chemicals in the brain.

Most patients do not experience all symptoms of narcolepsy. Some may have sleep attacks while others do not. Narcolepsy may also interrupt normal sleep with intensely vivid dreams or sleep paralysis, a condition in which you cannot move for about a minute after waking up or falling asleep. You may also frequently wake up during the night or experience hallucinations before or after sleep.

A unique symptom of narcolepsy is cataplexy. During cataplexy, you experience a sudden loss in muscle tone and weakness while awake. Attacks may involve loss of control over one part of the body or be more severe causing you to collapse. These attacks are typically triggered by emotional situations. Not all patients with narcolepsy have cataplexy.

Our physicians know that better sleep equals better overall wellbeing. At Indiana University Health, we strive to improve your emotional, mental and physical health by helping you experience restful sleep. When diagnosing your condition using sleep studies, we focus on your convenience and comfort, providing both day and night time testing. After you are diagnosed, we use education, medication and behavioral therapy to give you the tools you need to build a healthy relationship with sleep. Our goal is to help you live an active lifestyle with as few sleep attacks as possible.

How We Can Help

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:

Narcolepsy Locations & Physicians

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Narcolepsy Support Services

Resources and more information are available from a variety of organizations.