Medical Definition of Narcolepsy

Reviewed on 10/21/2021

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that is marked by the recurrent, sudden, uncontrollable compulsion to sleep. Narcolepsy is often associated with cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone and paralysis of voluntary muscles associated with a strong emotion), sleep paralysis (immobility of the body that occurs in the transition from sleep to wakefulness), hypnagogic hallucinations (pre-sleep dreams), and automatic behaviors (such as doing something 'automatically' and not remembering afterward how one did it). The causes of narcolepsy are unknown. Narcolepsy is not a fatal disorder in itself, but it can lead to fatalities. For example, affected people may fall asleep while driving. Also known as excessive daytime sleepiness, hypnolepsy, sleeping disease, paroxysmal sleep, and Gelineau syndrome.

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References
Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.