Narcolepsy, Description and Treatment Options

Narcolepsy: Disorder Summary

The phenomenon of narcolepsy is typically defined as a sleeping disorder that manifests itself in the form of excessive sleepiness, particularly, during daytime (Poli et al., 2013). Apart from sleepiness, tiredness should be listed among the key symptoms. Furthermore, when progressing to its more dangerous form, narcolepsy may result in sleep attacks (National Institute of Health, 2017). Traditionally, tow forms of narcolepsy are identified. Narcolepsy with cataplexy causes a patient to experience a sharp drop in muscle tone when being awake (Poli et al., 2013).

Symptoms Overview

As stressed above, excessive daytime sleepiness and a drop in muscle tone are the primary symptoms of narcolepsy. However, the disorder may also result in the development of hallucinations. Frequent instances of sleep paralysis should also be regarded as one of the signs of narcolepsy. Also, Problems with sleeping in the night may signify that the development of narcolepsy might be in progress (Poli et al., 2013).

Prevalence: Statistical Data

According to the statistical data provided by the National Institute of Health (2017), narcolepsy occurs in 1 out of 2,000 people. As far as the global statistics are concerned, one out of 600 people has narcolepsy-related issues (National Institute of Health, 2017). It should be noted, though, that a range of cases in which narcolepsy symptoms are mild remain undiscovered. Therefore, the actual prevalence of narcolepsy must be considerably higher.

Causes and Key Factors

Genetic makeup defines the presence of narcolepsy to a considerable degree. Though clusters in families are rather rare occurrences, the development of the disease may also be spurred by the factors related to the family history (Ellis, Walczy, Buboltz, & Felix, 2014). However, the disorder can also be acquired due to the presence of abnormalities in the immune system. Furthermore, the lack of hypocretin (orexin) may lead to the development of narcolepsy (National Institute of Health, 2017).

Common Misconceptions

There are several myths about narcolepsy that complicate the process of diagnosing and managing the issue successfully. For instance, a lot of people assume that taking naps more often will help cure the disease and that the further usage of a healthcare practitioner’s assistance will not be required. Also, the phenomenon of narcolepsy is often misunderstood. In popular media, narcolepsy is typically represented as the propensity for falling asleep at an inappropriate time, whereas, in reality, narcolepsy implies excessive sleepiness (National Institute of Health, 2017).

Impact on Cognitive Processes

Narcolepsy often results in cognitive dysfunction. The gradual loss of verbal and visual long-term memory is the primary effect of narcolepsy progression (Yoon, Joo, Kim, Hwang, & Hong, 2013). Moreover, a recent study claims that there is a connection between the development of narcolepsy in patients and the reading comprehension skills of the latter (Ellis et al., 2014).

Impact on Physiological Processes

Narcolepsy also affects physiological processes to a considerable degree, thus, reducing the quality of the patient’s life. For example, the mechanisms of sleep are disrupted by narcolepsy. Besides, a general loss of physical strength can be observed among patients with narcolepsy.

Proposed Medical and Psychological Treatments

After using the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) to detect a [problem, a therapist must consider suggesting that a patient with narcolepsy should use a combination of medications and therapy. The latter should include a significant change in a patient’s lifestyle, such as a reconsideration of sleep patterns. The active use of stimulants as the means of reducing the negative effects of narcolepsy must also be considered (National Institute of Health, 2017).


Ellis, S. K., Walczyk, J. J., Buboltz, W., & Felix, V. (2014). The relationship between self-reported sleep quality and reading comprehension skills. Sleep Science, 7(4), 189–196. Web.

National Institute of Health. (2017). Narcolepsy. Web.

Poli, F., Overeem, S., Lammers, G. J., Plazzi, G., Lecendreux, M., Bassetti, C. L., … Bonhoeffer, J. (2013). Narcolepsy as an adverse event following immunization: Case definition and guidelines for data collection, analysis and presentation. Vaccine, 31(6), 994-1007. Web.

Yoon, S.-M., Joo, E. Y., Kim, J. Y., Hwang, K. J., & Hong, S. B. (2013). Is high IQ protective against cognitive dysfunction in narcoleptic patients? Journal of Clinical Neurology (Seoul, Korea), 9(2), 118-124. Web.