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Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy can happen even if a person gets enough sleep each night. Some people have symptoms that worsen with age. Women who have it may start to feel better after menopause .

Problems may be:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sleep attacks that a person cannot control that can last about 3 to 30 minutes. They may happen from time to time during the day or may be triggered by:
    • Being in a warm environment
    • Eating a heavy meal
    • Working in a place that is not challenging or is not active
  • Cataplexy is a sudden and complete loss of muscle tone and strength. It can happen at any time during the day. It can be triggered by:
    • Strong emotions such as anger and laughter
    • Stress
    • Being tickled
    • Orgasm
    • Eating a heavy meal
  • Sleep paralysis is a full or partial loss of the ability to move or speak. This happens just as a sleep attack starts or ends.
  • Hallucinations:
    • Mainly happen as sleep starts or ends, but may also happen when a person is awake
    • Are mostly vivid images that a person can see, but that do not exist
    • Can be heard and felt
  • Behaviors a person cannot control, such as:
    • Periods of sleepwalking that may happen during sleep attacks
    • Continuing a current activity or meaningless speech
  • Problems staying asleep at night
  • Memory problems
  • Vision problems
  • Nighttime waking


  • Narcolepsy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/narcolepsy. Accessed April 25, 2022.
  • Narcolepsy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/narcolepsy. Accessed April 26, 2022.
  • Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Narcolepsy-Fact-Sheet. Accessed April 25, 2022.


  • Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.