Narcolepsy is not rare, but it is often an under-recognized and underdiagnosed condition. Our narcolepsy doctors at Northshore Sleep Medicine can help you by diagnosing this sleep disorder and recommending narcolepsy treatment.
How is narcolepsy diagnosed?
Sometimes, a narcolepsy doctor can diagnosis the disorder from your complaints, especially if you (or a family member) describe “cataplexy,” a phenomenon unique to narcolepsy. Cataplexy can include symptoms ranging from slurred speech to total body collapse. (See our Narcolepsy page for more info.)
To confirm the diagnosis, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that the diagnostic work-up for narcolepsy include a sleep study followed by a Multiple Sleep Latency Test. The narcolepsy test is a daytime nap study that attempts to quantify daytime sleepiness and document a shortened REM (rapid eye movement) latency, which means REM occurs very shortly after falling asleep. In very rare cases, cerebro-spinal fluid is taken from the patient via a lumbar puncture in order to analyze the levels of Hypocretin (AKA Orexin) which are typically very low and undetectable in patients with narcolepsy. Even less often, a genetic test can be run. But that test rarely provides sufficient additional information, because many patients without narcolepsy have the same biologic markers. Your sleep specialist can determine which tests are appropriate for you.
What is narcolepsy treatment?
Typical narcolepsy treatment may include medications that can be quite effective and can help people with narcolepsy lead normal lives. Your doctor may prescribe stimulants such as Modafanil (Provigil) and Armodafinil (Nuvigil) which are used to improve daytime alertness while hypnotics such as sodium oxybate (Xyrem) are used to help lengthen your healthy sleep cycles. Sodium Oxybate is also effective at treating cataplexy. Other medications useful for treating cataplexy are anti-depressants such as SSRIs (serotonin selective re-uptake inhibitors). Please note that use of these medications may be associated with several undesirable side effects and must be carefully monitored.
Get help with narcolepsy or any sleep disorder. Call us at 847-674-3600 or click the red button to book your first appointment.