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A sleep disorder that usually appears in young adulthood, narcolepsy causes people to fall asleep suddenly - anywhere, at any time, even in the middle of a conversation. Lasting from a few seconds to more than an hour, these sleep attacks can be mildly inconvenient, embarrassing or - depending on where they occur - dangerous.

Mercy doctors will create a personal narcolepsy treatment plan that combines healthy habits and possibly medications to improve your life. To start, you will describe your sleeping problems and answer questions about your medical and family history. It helps to keep a daily sleep diary for a week or two, recording times when you fall asleep and wake up and noting any symptoms you notice.

A sleep study may be required to evaluate your condition. Sensors will be placed on your head and body and your sleep will be monitored all night. You may also have a daytime napping study. Study results will help your doctor diagnose narcolepsy and plan your treatment.

Living with Narcolepsy

Symptoms of narcolepsy may affect your daily life. Support from your family and friends will help, but you can learn ways to cope at home, work or school:

  • Teach your family and friends about narcolepsy and your special needs
  • Join a narcolepsy support group to talk about your sleep problem and share ideas about coping with your symptoms
  • Report changes in your symptoms and any medication side effects to your health care provider
  • If you work, try to adjust your schedule so you can take short naps during the day
  • At school, tell your teacher or school nurse about your special needs
  • If you become drowsy when driving, pull over to a safe place to nap

Healthy habits like these may also help reduce your symptoms:

  • Plan short daily naps
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Exercise regularly. Avoid strenuous exercise two to four hours before bedtime
  • Avoid or limit caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

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