Narcolepsy is a medical condition that causes sudden attacks of sleep or drowsiness during the day. These episodes may last anywhere from a couple of seconds to several minutes. Poor, fragmented sleep at night is also common.
Narcolepsy is rare. Experts estimate that it affects about 1 in 2,000 people. However, many researchers believe it often goes undiagnosed. The symptoms of narcolepsy usually begin between the ages of
If you have narcolepsy, you may experience cataplexy, or sudden muscle weakness often triggered by extreme emotions like stress or excitement.
However, only about 10% to 15% of people experience all of these symptoms at once.
Aside from sleep-related symptoms, several other conditions often appear alongside narcolepsy. Doctors usually call these accompanying conditions comorbidities.
Keep reading to learn which comorbidities you should be aware of if you have narcolepsy.
Many comorbidities of narcolepsy may additionally interfere with your sleep, make you feel even more tired, and influence other things in your daily life.
It’s important to identify them so your doctor can help you manage both narcolepsy and its unwelcome companions.
Obesity and diabetes
People with narcolepsy tend to have higher body mass index (BMI).
Doctors don’t know why this happens. Perhaps narcolepsy can make you burn fewer calories due to slower metabolism, or drowsiness may stop you from getting enough exercise. More research is needed.
Other sleep conditions
Your narcolepsy may be worsened by other sleep disorders. Some of them are:
- obstructive sleep apnea
- parasomnia (an abnormal behavior while sleeping like sleepwalking or sleep talking)
- restless leg syndrome
When you have more than one sleep condition, it may be harder for doctors to diagnose what’s causing your symptoms.
Make sure to give your doctor as many details as you can remember to help them identify the cause and suggest appropriate treatment.
Mental health conditions
People with narcolepsy often have mental health conditions. In fact, narcolepsy is often misdiagnosed as a mental health disorder because of similar symptoms.
But depression usually improves once you start getting treatment for narcolepsy, so make sure to schedule regular check-ins with your doctor.
Researchers don’t know if these conditions are related, but
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
For example, excessive daytime sleepiness may cause problems with your attention span and impulse control.
People with narcolepsy sometimes have irresistible cravings for food that can cause binge eating.
However, because of similar symptoms like hallucinations and psychosis, schizophrenia can be confused with narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy can be linked to certain conditions affecting your blood vessels like:
Although more research is needed to understand why this happens, a few factors
First, your blood pressure usually goes down during sleep at night. Problems with sleep can affect this natural pattern resulting in elevated blood pressure.
Second, obesity, depression, and diabetes — common in people with narcolepsy — can increase your risk for heart disease.
Third, not being able to get fully rested at night can put an extra strain on your heart, leading to heart disease.
Finally, some narcolepsy medications are high in sodium, and sodium can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. However, low sodium options have recently become available, so make sure to speak with your doctor about these.
Living with narcolepsy is difficult, but having other conditions on top of it is even tougher.
It’s especially challenging when your conditions have overlapping symptoms and you have a difficult time determining which condition is causing them on a particular day.
If this sounds familiar, make sure to speak with a doctor. They should be able to help you figure out what’s causing your symptoms and come up with a treatment plan.
If you have any troubling symptoms, speak with a doctor. Regular visits with your doctor can help you control your current symptoms and find a prompt remedy for any new ones.
If narcolepsy causes you to feel lonely and have trouble maintaining relationships, make sure to bring it up to your doctor as well.
They can recommend effective mental health treatments, and they can also refer you to support groups and share other helpful resources.
Narcolepsy is a medical condition that makes you fall asleep or feel extremely sleepy during the day. It can cause many other symptoms like sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and sudden muscle weakness.
In addition, narcolepsy can have many comorbidities: other sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, mental health conditions, and heart conditions.
A doctor will help you identify what’s causing your symptoms and come up with a treatment plan.