PLEASE NOTE: This treatment is not available through our online pharmacy service. This page is for information only. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to the condition(s) this medication treats, we strongly recommend that you see your GP in person.
Narcolepsy is a somewhat rare neurological disorder that can cause you to fall asleep at unusual times, even when you are in the middle of completing a task such as writing an email or working a puzzle. It is estimated to affect one in every 2,500 people and there are about 30,000 known cases in the U.K., although many people go undiagnosed.
If you think you have narcolepsy, we can provide a treatment option to help reduce the symptoms. Start the process with a free consultation.Find treatments Read more Learn how we work
Narcolepsy is a somewhat rare neurological disorder that can cause you to fall asleep at unusual times, even when you are in the middle of completing a task such as writing an email or working a puzzle. It is estimated to affect one in every 2,500 people and there are about 30,000 known cases in the UK, although many people go undiagnosed.
If you think you have narcolepsy, we can provide a treatment option to help reduce the symptoms. Start the process with a free consultation.
Narcolepsy is a chronic and long-term neurological disorder characterised by excessive daytime drowsiness and sleep attacks. A sleep attack can happen anytime and regardless of what you are doing. A person with narcolepsy also may experience sudden muscle weakness and even temporary paralysis.
The is no specific test for narcolepsy like there is for other chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The doctor bases an initial diagnosis on the patient’s descriptions of excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden loss of muscle strength.
It’s not clear what causes narcolepsy. It could potentially be connected to low levels of a neurochemical in the brain. Hypocretin plays an important role the in the sleep-wake cycle and helps to regulate wakefulness.
It is possible that an autoimmune disorder is what causes the levels of the hypocretin to drop, although that is an unproven theory.
Research also points to a potential link between the H1N1 virus known as swine flu and an H1N1 vaccine used in Europe. The truth is that there may be more than one cause of this condition. It may even be genetic.
Narcolepsy is a chronic illness, so there are no specific triggers. The sudden muscle weakness can occur at any time. Sleep attacks may also be triggered by a strong emotional response like crying or laughing hard, but not necessarily.
It’s very common to fall asleep during an activity and wake up not remembering completing the task. You will get the sense of lost time even though you continued to function during the sleep.
The symptoms of narcolepsy typically start between the ages of 12 and 25. They include:
Sleep paralysis refers to the inability to move or speak when dozing off to sleep. This is something that happens naturally during REM sleep but you are not aware of it. The natural paralysis keeps you from acting out your dreams. People with narcolepsy may actually act out their dream by moving their arms, speaking and appearing to walk in their bed.
You have no physical control over narcolepsy, so the best management is medication. Developing good sleep habits can help, as well. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Try to minimise stress at work and home, too. Strong emotions like anxiety can increase the attacks. Regular exercise and daytime naps are known to reduce symptoms.
It is possible to live with mild narcolepsy but most sufferers require medical management to control the attacks. Narcolepsy has an impact on a person’s life at work and at home. Without treatment, it is possible to fall asleep walking across the street or driving a car. You may drop off in the middle of a conversation or while working. Medication stimulates the brain to reduce the excessive sleepiness.
The most commonly prescribed treatment is the drug modafinil, brand name Provigil. This drug is classified as a wakefulness-promoting medication able to stimulate the central nervous system.
Narcolepsy is a misunderstood illness and often mistaken for a mental health problem or even laziness. It can affect a person’s performance at work or when in school, as well.
Narcolepsy itself is not a life-threatening condition, however it can put the sufferer and others in life-threatening situations if they suffer a sleep attack at the wheel of a car or while cooking.
There does appear to be a link between these two medical problems. People with narcolepsy are often overweight. It may be the treatment that makes them gain weight or physical inactivity. Most likely, it is a combination of factors.
There is a cycle to normal sleep that starts with non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and transitions into REM. This allows the brain to slow down, so you can drift off.
With a sleep attack, the person goes directly into the REM cycle, skipping NREM. They may experience the effects of REM sleep like paralysis and hallucinations.
Coffee is not recommended if you take medication to control the illness because it can exasperate the side effects of the drug - as can nicotine and alcohol.
Be sure to tell our prescriber about any medications you currently take or have taken in the past, including over-the-counter, herbal and vitamin products.
Tell our prescriber about any medical conditions you have such as high blood pressure and if you are pregnant, plan to get pregnant or are breastfeeding.
Tell our prescriber of any allergies you might have or if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the following substances:
Table of contents