How To Treat Narcolepsy (2021)

Updated January 2021
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Medications that treat narcolepsy include antidepressants, stimulants, and sedatives. Lifestyle changes like creating a sleep schedule, taking short naps, and exercising daily can ease symptoms.

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a chronic, neurological sleep disorder impacting your brain's ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Those affected feel tired and drowsy during the daytime and experience sleep attacks during daily activities. If you have narcolepsy, you may also wake up frequently at night due to unsteady and interrupted sleep. Narcolepsy affects between 135,000 to 200,000 US citizens. It inhibits your work and social life if left untreated.

Type 1 narcolepsy

Type 1 narcolepsy causes low levels of hypocretin, responsible for wakefulness and rapid eye movement (REM). Type 1 narcoleptics can experience cataplexy, which occurs when your muscles suddenly go limp without warning.

Type 2 narcolepsy

Unlike type 1 narcolepsy, doctors aren't sure what causes type 2 narcolepsy, as people with type 2 narcolepsy have normal hypocretin levels. While people with type two narcolepsy experience sleep attacks and irregular sleep cycles, they don't suffer from cataplexy, and their symptoms might be milder than people who have type 1 narcolepsy.

Signs and symptoms of narcolepsy

People with narcolepsy experience symptoms for their entire lives, but their symptoms may improve and become more manageable over time.

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): Experiencing persistent sleep attacks regardless of how much you slept the night before.
  • Cataplexy:  Sudden loss of muscle tone while awake, causing you to lose control of your muscles. Cataplexy tends to be triggered by emotional reactions.
  • Sleep Problems: You may experience difficulty staying asleep. You might also experience sleep paralysis, which inhibits your ability to move and is often paired with visual hallucinations.
  • Automatic behaviors: When you fall asleep for a short period of time and carry on with whatever activity you were doing before.

Treating narcolepsy

There are no treatments that can relieve you of narcolepsy completely, but there are medications you can take and lifestyle changes you can implement to ease your narcolepsy symptoms.

  • Medications: Doctors often prescribe antidepressants, stimulants, and sedatives to ease narcolepsy symptoms.
  • Take short naps. Take regular, scheduled naps when you usually feel sleepiest.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to implement a sleep schedule that may help regulate your sleep pattern.  
  • Exercise daily. This can improve your quality of sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or large meals before bed. Stimulating substances and eating a lot before bed makes it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Relax before bed. Take care of yourself by having a hot shower, or reading can help wind down before bedtime.

Will a new mattress help with narcolepsy?

If you suffer from narcolepsy, it's possible that you've tried many of the treatments listed here with little to no results.  If you've tried the treatments listed above and haven't seen your symptoms improve, it may be time to invest in a quality mattress. Improving sleep quality can ease narcolepsy, so investing in the right mattress may help get you on the right track towards a better night's sleep.

The #1 Best Mattress For Narcolepsy

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