Narcolepsy is a rather bizarre disorder that is characterized by sudden attacks of irrepressible REM (dream) sleep. It is sometimes associated with

  • cataplexy, a sudden temporary loss of muscle tone - the patient just suddenly sinks to the floor
  • hypnagogic hallucinations, frightening and recurring visual hallucinations when falling to or arousing from sleep
  • sleep paralysis, a paralysis of voluntary musculature while falling asleep

Narcolepsy rarely begins before adolescence. Patients with narcolepsy are easily aroused and become spontaneously alert, as opposed to other conditions of daytime sleepiness such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Treatment consists of scheduled naps, amphetamines, methylphenidate, tricyclic antidepressants, and counseling with respect to occupational safety and driving.

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