In this section, we will look at Narcolepsy Symptom or symptoms of narcolepsy Narcolepsy Resources – Click Here. It is important to note that either one of these Narcolepsy symptoms can occur while the brain is partially asleep and partially awake, during the process of going to sleep or waking up.
An abnormal pattern of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
When a person is sleeping, he/she goes through 5 different cycles or levels of sleep, this is from light to deep & finally to the state of dreaming called (Rapid Eye Movement) REM sleep. A normal person normally takes about 90 to 120 minutes to reach the REM stage but for a narcoleptic, it normally happens immediately after falling asleep rather than following a period of deep sleep. So many of the Narcolepsy symptoms are a result of the disturbance in this deep sleep stage REM.
What normally happens is that the person will experience flashes of this deep sleep stage even when awake. This, in turn, results in sleep activities manifesting even when awake e.g. dreams/hallucination and “paralysis”
The common symptoms can appear at the same time or show up gradually over some years while some may never appear at all. The one narcolepsy symptom that is always present however is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) is synonymous with Narcolepsy and is the first one and most obvious. For some, this is the only Narcolepsy Symptom. EDS includes daytime sleep attacks, which come without warning, drowsiness such that the person may look drunk or in a state of a trance. Other than the sleep attacks of drowsiness, the person may experience some frequent dozing off during the day.
Cataplexy (the other hallmark symptom of narcolepsy)
Cataplexy is another common symptom of Narcolepsy. It is an unexpected loss of will power in controlling your body, specifically the loss of muscle control such as weakness at the knees, to a complete collapse causing you to fall to the ground. Attacks can range in severity from a brief sensation of weakness to total collapse lasting several minutes.
Hallucinations may be thought of as intense vivid images, sounds, and tactical sensations that make things seem real even though they aren’t. Hypnagogic hallucinations may happen when falling asleep and Hypnopompic hallucinations may happen when awakening from sleep.
Often these images are frightening as the person can hardly control them because he/she may be partially conscious at the time of the hallucination. Their intensity may cause you to doubt your level of sanity.
Trance-like behavior is another Narcolepsy symptom. The person seems to be doing things on “auto-pilot” for some time. This includes undertaking a routine task without being conscious of doing it and most often do not even remember doing it. This is normally done for minor tasks that have little meaning such as talking without making much sense.
Frequent awakening during sleep/disrupted nighttime sleep
A Narcoleptic may also be seen by the frequency of waking up during the night. This is normally accompanied by a quickening of the heart rate, being over alert, agitated, and intense cravings for sweets.
Sleep paralysis is an inability to move or speak while falling asleep or when waking up. This may last for about two minutes or so. This is the same time when hallucinations are likely to occur as you are generally aware of your surroundings, but are unable to move or to speak.
Other narcolepsy symptoms
Include blurred vision, loss of memory, concentration. Feelings of intense fatigue and continual lack of energy are often reported, and depression is also common. The ability to concentrate and memorize may become more difficult. Vision (focusing) problems, eating ‘binges’, weak limbs, and difficulties in handling alcohol may also occur. Narcoleptics do not sleep longer than normal during a typical 24-hour period, but their sleep is non-restorative.
Read more: Understanding the cause of narcolepsy