Narcolepsy

Rajiv M. Joseph, MD, PhD, FAAN -  - Board Certified in Neurology

Rajiv M. Joseph, MD, PhD, FAAN

Board Certified in Neurology & Sleep Medicine located in Plano, TX

Narcolepsy is an uncommon sleep disorder that only affects one in every 2,000-3,000 people, causing extreme daytime fatigue and makes it hard for you to stay awake. As a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, Rajiv Joseph, MD, PhD, FAAN, offers expert diagnosis and treatments for narcolepsy at his sleep center in Plano, Texas. Call Rajiv Joseph MD PA or schedule an appointment online today if you have extreme daytime sleepiness and can’t stay awake throughout the day.

Narcolepsy Q & A

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a widely misunderstood sleep disorder that causes severe fatigue, making it difficult for you to stay awake during the day. While many people associate narcolepsy with sleep attacks where you nod off unintentionally, the condition causes many other symptoms such as:

  • Sleep paralysis
  • Cataplexy (loss of muscle tone or temporary muscle paralysis)
  • Hallucinations

Narcolepsy generally develops between the ages of 10-25 and affects men and women equally.


What causes narcolepsy?

Medical researchers and doctors don’t fully understand the causes of narcolepsy. Studies show that people with narcolepsy have low levels of hypocretin, a chemical that regulates your wakefulness and your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles.

A regular sleep pattern is to fall into a deep sleep immediately and stay in that stage for an hour or so. Then your brain activity changes and you start cycles of REM and light sleep. Most of your dreaming takes place during your REM sleep.

However, people with narcolepsy often suddenly enter REM sleep without a period of deep sleep and the line between REM sleep and being awake are sometimes blurred both at night and during the day. As a result, some of the characteristics of REM sleep such as cataplexy and dreaming may occur while you’re awake.


How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

Dr. Joseph uses a variety of sleep studies to diagnose narcolepsy. Two of the tests he uses to monitor your sleep include polysomnograms (PSGs) and multiple sleep latency tests (MSLTs). A PSG, which measures your brain activity, respiration, and movement during sleep, is available for both at-home and in-office use. Dr. Joseph can see if your sleep patterns are irregular with a polysomnogram.

A multiple sleep latency test measures how quickly you can fall asleep during the day. You’re instructed to take several naps throughout the day with a couple of hours of wakefulness in between. Your ability to fall asleep and your sleep patterns are monitored and measured for signs of narcolepsy.


How is narcolepsy treated?

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for narcolepsy. However, you can work with Dr. Joseph to manage your condition and regulate your sleep patterns so you can lead a healthy and active life.

Dr. Joseph can prescribe medication to regulate your periods of sleep and wakefulness. He can also provide counseling and assessments like the maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT) to determine if it’s safe for you to drive a car or participate in other activities that may be dangerous if you were to fall asleep.

If you’re always tired and struggle to stay awake during the day, call Rajiv Joseph MD PA or schedule an appointment online today for expert diagnosis and management.