Sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy with cataplexy, present daily challenges and frustrations. Individuals may struggle with activities that others take for granted, such as working, driving, and watching television. Even spending time with family and friends can be difficult when it is a constant fight to stay awake.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes persistent sleepiness throughout the day, disrupting the brain’s ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Approximately 60–70% of people diagnosed with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy. Symptoms of cataplexy include sudden loss of muscle tone often triggered by a strong emotion like excitement or laughter.
Common signs and symptoms include:
If you experience symptoms of narcolepsy with cataplexy, you should talk to your doctor about possibly having a sleep test. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for evaluation and diagnosis. Your doctor or a sleep specialist will likely discuss your symptoms with you and ask about your medical history and any family history of sleep-related issues. You may also be asked to:
Treatment often focuses on trying to relieve symptoms. Stimulant medication may be prescribed to help you stay awake during the day. Additionally, some simple lifestyle-related steps may help, such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule, taking occasional short naps to avoid unexpected sleep attacks, and avoiding activities that result in sleep loss (staying up late on weekends).