Rare: 20,000-200,000 cases a year in the USA

What happens in the brain

The brain stem releases arousal signals into the frontal cortex and then the rest of the brain that stimulate and wake the brain. Other neurons called hypocretin are also released to stimulate other areas of the brain while you are awake. For those who suffer from narcolepsy, 90-95% of these hypocretin producing cells are gone. This is why it is so hard for them to stay awake.


“One foot in each world, riding them simultaneously; expecting not to fall.”
Kelly Proudfoot, Delwyn of the Realms


The disorder begins between the ages of 10-20 and stays for life. The first symptoms are usually excessive sleepiness during the day, and over time other symptoms develop.

Those who suffer feel the same amount of sleepiness throughout the day that a normal person would feel if they went without sleep for 48-72 hours straight. Furthermore, at night narcoleptics wake up frequently, suffer from vivid nightmares, and sleep paralysis.

The brain tries to counteract the desire for sleep with the desire for lots of fatty foods, so narcolepsy often has the side effect of obesity. Another common disorder that occurs with narcolepsy is catoplexy, which affects 70% of those with narcolepsy.

Diagnosis and Prognosis


Doctors diagnosis patients with narcolepsy when patients complain of irregular sleeping patterns, especially when they are falling asleep excessively during the day. Two tests that are considered essential in confirming a diagnosis of narcolepsy are the polysomnogram and the multiple sleep latency test. In addition, questionnaires, such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, are often used to measure excessive daytime sleepiness.


Narcolepsy is a lifelong disorder. There is no cure so those diagnosed are stuck with it for life. Other symptoms such as sleep paralysis and catoplexy often develop. There is no cure for narcolepsy, but there are pills that can be taken to reduce the symptoms. However, it takes a long time to find the right combination of medications for each individual, and the medicine begins to stop working over time. Pills also often come with unwanted side effects.


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health conduct research on narcolepsy and other sleeping related neurological disorders. They are looking for a cure, or at least a medicine that is better at managing the symptoms.

More Facts!

Only about 20-25% of narcoleptics experience all the symptoms.

Symptoms usually get worse for the first 2-3 decades before getting a little better.

Works Cited

Bailey Wild