At Sleep Health MD, which has offices in Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Monterey, California, Dr. Aaron Morse and and his professional medical staff have helped many residents who suffer from narcolepsy. They are familiar with the latest advancements in the treatment of this disorder.

request an appointment

What Is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes people to become extremely tired during the day. People who suffer from narcolepsy will often suddenly fall asleep with little or no warning. Because the disorder makes staying awake for extended periods of time difficult, it can have a large impact on a person’s ability to live a normal life.

What Symptoms Does Narcolepsy Cause?

In addition to sudden bouts of sleep, narcolepsy may also cause a quick loss of muscle tone, hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is characterized by an inability to speak or move when falling asleep or waking up.

What Causes Narcolepsy?

The precise cause of narcolepsy remains unknown. Researchers are investigating several possible factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing the disorder. The factors include:

  • having low levels of hypocretin, a neurochemical that regulates REM sleep and wakefulness
  • genetic history
  • exposure to the H1N1 virus (swine flu)

How Is Narcolepsy Diagnosed?

Doctors rely on a number of different sources of information when diagnosing patients with narcolepsy. Doctors will often ask a patient to relay their sleep history, which is why it’s important for patients to always be honest with their physicians. Doctors will also often conduct one or more sleep studies.

How Is Narcolepsy Treated?

There isn’t a cure for narcolepsy, but there are ways to manage the symptoms it causes. Lifestyle changes, including following a sleep schedule, taking naps, avoiding alcohol and nicotine, and exercising regularly, can often have a positive effect. Often, doctors will also prescribe medication. The medications used to treat narcolepsy include the following:

  • stimulants, such as modafinil, armodafinil, and methylphenidate
  • serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as venlafaxine
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine
  • tricyclic antidepressants, such as protriptyline, imipramine, and clomipramine
  • sodium oxybate

Which medication is most suitable for a particular patient depends on many factors. A narcolepsy specialist can recommend one of these medications, if prescription medication is necessary, after an in-person appointment.