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Narcolepsy With Cataplexy

By dmohan kumarPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects approximately 1 in every 2,000 people worldwide. It is a chronic neurological condition that is caused by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles properly. One of the most common symptoms of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness, which can significantly impact an individual's quality of life.


However, some individuals with narcolepsy experience another symptom known as cataplexy, which can be even more disruptive to daily life. Cataplexy is characterized by sudden and temporary muscle weakness or paralysis that is often triggered by strong emotions such as laughter, surprise, or anger. In this article, we will explore narcolepsy with cataplexy in greater detail, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Causes of Narcolepsy with Cataplexy

Narcolepsy with cataplexy is caused by a deficiency in the brain's production of a neurotransmitter called hypocretin, also known as orexin. Hypocretin is responsible for regulating wakefulness and maintaining muscle tone during wakefulness. In individuals with narcolepsy with cataplexy, the neurons that produce hypocretin are destroyed, leading to a lack of the neurotransmitter in the brain. The exact cause of this destruction is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to be an autoimmune response in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the hypocretin-producing neurons.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)

EDS is the primary symptom of narcolepsy with cataplexy. It causes an irresistible urge to sleep during the day, even after getting enough sleep at night. People with narcolepsy may fall asleep suddenly and involuntarily, even during important activities such as driving or working. They may also experience sleep attacks, which are sudden, brief episodes of sleep that occur throughout the day.


Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone triggered by strong emotions, such as laughter, anger, or excitement. During an episode, a person may experience weakness, slurred speech, and drooping eyelids. Some people may have complete paralysis and collapse to the ground, but remain conscious and aware of their surroundings.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when falling asleep or waking up. It can be frightening, but it is not harmful. Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by vivid hallucinations that can feel very real.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid, dream-like experiences that occur when falling asleep or waking up. They can be sensory, such as seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there, or they can be more abstract, such as feeling as if you are floating or flying.

Fragmented Sleep

People with narcolepsy may have difficulty maintaining continuous sleep throughout the night. They may experience frequent awakenings, and their sleep may be disrupted by vivid dreams, nightmares, or other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Automatic Behaviors

During periods of EDS, people with narcolepsy may perform routine tasks automatically, without conscious awareness or memory of doing so. This can include driving, cooking, or even having a conversation.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Narcolepsy with cataplexy can also cause cognitive dysfunction, including difficulty with concentration, memory, and decision-making.


One of the most significant factors in the development of narcolepsy with cataplexy is genetics. Studies have shown that individuals with narcolepsy with cataplexy have a higher incidence of certain genetic markers than the general population. These genetic markers are thought to affect the production of hypocretin, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles. In people with narcolepsy, there is a deficiency of hypocretin, which can lead to the symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy.

In conclusion, narcolepsy with cataplexy is a chronic sleep disorder that can significantly impair daily functioning. The primary symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, but other common symptoms include sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, fragmented sleep, automatic behaviors, and cognitive dysfunction. If you suspect that you may have narcolepsy with cataplexy, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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About the Creator

dmohan kumar

I am a freelance article writer, sql developer from India. My hobby is to practice small programs, read, watch videos to learn more.

I was working in a Pharma company since past 5 years, before that I used to work in call centers for 2years.

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