While ​narcolepsy cannot be cured, treatment and lifestyle changes can help sufferers lead normal lives​.​

What is narcolepsy?

​Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterised by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep which can seriously disrupt a sufferer’s work routine. Left untreated, it may even endanger the lives of the patient and those around him. Imagine a driver falling asleep whil​e driving.

There is no cure for narcolepsy, but with the right treatment and lifestyle changes, the condition can be kept in check, helping sufferers lead normal lives.

Narcolepsy is estimated to affect 25 to 50 people in every 100,000, but this may be understated. A lack of awareness or understanding about this ailment may lead many to think that they are merely sleepy, said Dr WS Shahul Hameed, ​Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology​, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

Causes and risk factors of narcolepsy

The condition is equally common among men and women, and typically shows up in the teens and early 20s.

Doctors believe that narcolepsy might be linked to genes, virus attacks and head traumas.

Symptoms of narcolepsy

Besides excessive daytime sleepiness, sufferers may experience other symptoms including cataplexy (where intense emotion like laughter or anger or strenuous exercise triggers a loss of muscle control), sleep paralysis (where the person is unable to talk or move for brief periods when falling asleep or wakening), as well as hypnagogic hallucinations (where the person experiences vivid dreams and sounds as he is about to fall asleep).

Sufferers tend to be depressed, with obesity commonly seen in child sufferers.

Read on for diagnosis and treatment of narcolepsy

Ref: R14​