Narcolepsy

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 3rd April 2019

Narcolepsy is a rare condition where you are excessively tired during the day, fall asleep suddenly and at very inappropriate times.


Causes

  • Narcolepsy is increasingly thought to be due to a deficiency in a chemical that regulates sleep, caused by the body’s own immune system
  • Genetics
  • Changes to hormones
  • An infection (such as swine flu)
  • The flu vaccine (Pandemrix has been linked to narcolepsy)


Risk factors

Besides the causes mentioned above, the risk of narcolepsy is higher if you have:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Suffered a head injury
  • A problem with brain structure


Typical Symptoms

  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Feeling excessively tired at various times throughout the day
  • Cataplexy (temporary loss of muscle tone that can cause you to collapse suddenly)
  • Sleep paralysis (being awake but unable to move your body)
  • Hallucinations that occur around the time of falling asleep or waking


Common Treatment

There is no cure for narcolepsy but the condition can be improved by:

  • Practicing good sleep hygiene (for sleep hygiene tips have a look at the insomnia page)
  • Medication for narcolepsy


When to speak to a doctor

If you think you might have narcolepsy, please speak to a doctor. Any worries or questions can be initially answered via a digital consultation. The GP can then arrange further investigations as needed.

To speak to one of our Babylon GPs, download the app and create an account today.


More information

Narcolepsy UK - https://www.narcolepsy.org.uk/

NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/narcolepsy/