Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes daytime sleepiness. Some cases may be linked to genes that influence the levels of a brain hormone called hypocretin.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder where a person may feel groggy or suddenly fall asleep during the day. This disorder makes it difficult to stay alert and perform work, school, or other necessary tasks.
Narcolepsy may also cause muscle weakness and make it hard to get into deep or restful sleep.
While much is still unknown about the cause of narcolepsy, researchers believe there’s a genetic component in some cases.
Keep reading to find out more about the genetics of narcolepsy, what the risk factors are, and how doctors treat this condition.
Here’s more detailed information about narcolepsy.
While genes do not directly cause it,
People with NT1 have lower levels of hypocretin in the brain. This protein helps regulate sleep cycles, and low levels lead to NT1.
The HLA gene, which researchers estimate is present in
Less is known about the genetics of type 2 narcolepsy (NT2). NT2 is narcolepsy without cataplexy. People with NT2 have typical levels of hypocretin in the brain, but research has uncovered that
That said, some
Genetics may only be one piece of the puzzle, with
The root cause of narcolepsy is largely
What is known is that people with NT1 have low levels of hypocretin, which may occur from various triggers.
Triggers for narcolepsy may include:
- autoimmune issues
- exposure to toxins
- hormonal changes, such as during puberty and menopause
Family history may
There are no sex differences in who’s affected by narcolepsy. Symptoms often appear when a person is
Your risk of developing narcolepsy may also be
Treatment for narcolepsy depends on the person and their symptoms. Treatments aim to improve symptoms.
Your doctor may suggest lifestyle strategies to improve your sleep hygiene. This may include things like:
- taking frequent naps
- avoiding caffeine in the evenings
- creating a bedtime routine, for example:
- taking a bath to relax
- having a strict bedtime every day of the week
- sleeping in a dark, cool, and calm environment
Certain medications may also help, including:
- modafinil (Provigil) to stimulate the brain and help with wakefulness
- sodium oxybate (Xyrem) to address loss of muscle control and help with nighttime sleep
- pitolisant (Wakix) to help with daytime sleepiness
- solriamfetol (Sunosi) to help with alertness
- antidepressants, such as venlafaxine, fluoxetine, and amitriptyline, to address loss of muscle control, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis
There is no cure for narcolepsy, so it can be difficult to live with this chronic condition. However, working closely with your doctor on a treatment plan can help you better manage your sleep and wakefulness during the daytime.
Does a person with narcolepsy sleep most of the day?
No. A person with narcolepsy may sleep the same amount of time as a person who doesn’t have the condition. However, these sleep cycles do not allow for restful sleep.
Can a person with narcolepsy drive a car?
Where can I find support?
Organizations that provide education and support for narcolepsy include:
Genetics may influence narcolepsy. But in
If you’re experiencing grogginess during the day and think you may have narcolepsy or some other sleep disorder, make an appointment with a doctor.
A sleep study can help give you an accurate diagnosis, and the appropriate treatment can improve your quality of life.