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a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and recurring unwanted episodes of sleep ("sleep attacks"). People with narcolepsy may abruptly fall asleep at almost any time, including while talking, eating, or even walking. The attacks may range from embarrassing or inconvenient to severely disabling, interfering with a person's daily life. An estimated 125,000–250,000 people in the United States have narcolepsy; it occurs about equally in males and females.

Most people with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, sudden muscular weakness without loss of consciousness, which usually accompanies laughter or anger. Other symptoms, occurring just after falling asleep or upon awakening, include sleep paralysis (a feeling that one cannot move) and vivid hallucinations.

The cause of narcolepsy is not known with certainty, but most people with narcolepsy have low levels of orexin (or hypocretin), a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness. In the case of people with narcolepsy and cataplexy, the cause appears to be an autoimmune response that attacks the brain's orexin-producing neurons. There is no cure. Treatment, including regular planned naps and the use of stimulant drugs (e.g., amphetaminesamphetamine
, any one of a group of drugs that are powerful central nervous system stimulants. Amphetamines have stimulating effects opposite to the effects of depressants such as alcohol, narcotics, and barbiturates.
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) plus antidepressantsantidepressant,
any of a wide range of drugs used to treat psychic depression. They are given to elevate mood, counter suicidal thoughts, and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
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 for cataplexy, can help to control its symptoms.



a disease the main symptom of which is an uncontrollable desire for sleep. Narcolepsy can develop after infections (epidemic encephalitis and malaria, for example) or head injuries; it may also be caused by certain brain tumors. Sometimes no apparent cause can be discovered, as in congenital, or genuine, narcolepsy. In addition to being characterized by an uncontrollable desire for sleep, narcolepsy is characterized by cataplectic attacks (loss of muscle tone brought about by exaggerated emotion) and by sudden arousals from nocturnal sleep with a loss of muscle tone. The duration of narcoleptic attacks is brief—from one to 30 minutes. The course of narcolepsy is chronic, but the intensity diminishes with age. Treatment involves both the elimination of the underlying cause and the use of pharmacotherapeutic techniques.


A disorder of sleep mechanism characterized by two or more of four distinct symptoms: uncontrollable periods of daytime drowsiness, cataleptic attacks of muscular weakness, sleep paralysis, and vivid nocturnal or hypnogogic hallucinations.
References in periodicals archive ?
Now, the same UCLA team has reported that an excess of another brain cell type- this one containing histamine - may be the cause of the loss of hypocretin cells in human narcoleptics.
2004) that showed plasma FSH level of hypocretin-deficient narcoleptic men is similar to that in normal men.
It is important to clarify that the narcoleptic patient is sleepy and not just fatigued, although both symptoms are often reported.
Treating her subjects with care and respect, Breitz gleefully disproves the idea that mass media induces narcoleptic passivity.
Twice he has battled a bizarre illness which features strange narcoleptic episodes and extreme behaviour.
Narcoleptic attacks can also be accompanied by a loss of muscle tone, called cataplexy.
Mounir, the central character, is desperate for the respect of his fellow villagers, but his style is hampered by a head-strong, narcoleptic sister who is seen as unmarriageable.
D in English literature, Charity Ketz puts her mastery to good use in "The Narcoleptic Yard".
The Bronze Stallion went to audience favorite "Mascarades" (Masquerades), an Algerian comedy about a boy who invents an imaginary rich suitor for his narcoleptic sister.
Will they think I'm narcoleptic as I sleep all the time?
Graduate student Doon Harrow (Treadaway), who toils in the pipeworks under narcoleptic mentor Sul (Landau), tells his inventor father (Robbins): "I will not sit around while Ember collapses.
MW, please explain how, when parked at the traffic lights in stationary traffic you can look in your mirror and change lanes when the narcoleptic in the pick-up truck is about to plough into the back of you?