Narcolepsy & Hypersomnia2020-12-11T10:15:34-07:00

Narcolepsy & Hypersomnia

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that makes a person feel incredibly tired during the day. In severe cases, narcolepsy causes uncontrollable sleep attacks. It is estimated that up to 1 in 2,000 people have some degree of narcolepsy, and those patients know that the disorder affects every facet of their life. It is also a dangerous sleep disorder, since both fatigue and sleep attacks can put patients in high-risk situations. However, most people with narcolepsy don’t know they have it. Nobody knows the exact cause of narcolepsy, but sleep specialists do know that low levels of the neurotransmitter hypocretin plays a role in narcolepsy with cataplexy. There is also an autoimmune and a genetic component to narcolepsy, albeit a small one.

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Understanding Narcolepsy

The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona is the leading comprehensive sleep medicine center in Phoenix. Physician-owned and operated, all we do is sleep-centered medicine to help you sleep better. We diagnose and treat both kinds of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy Type 1 presents as a hybrid of extreme sleepiness during the day and cataplexy, lower/absent hypocretin levels, or both. Cataplexy is a type of sleep attack that occurs when a person is awake, which may cause slurred speech, knee buckling, and rarely, even paralysis in severe cases. Strong emotions generally bring on cataplexy. As Narcolepsy Type 1 is often caused by low or absent hypocretin-1 levels, this deficiency can be present even if there is no cataplexy.

Narcolepsy Type 2 presents as extreme sleepiness without cataplexy. These patients might take an afternoon nap and feel refreshed for a bit, only to feel tired again before bedtime. Ultimately, the total sleep time experienced in a 24-hour period by those with narcolepsy is usually not more than the average person without a sleep disorder. Narcolepsy patients often struggle to sleep throughout the night, which contributes to their daytime sleepiness.

Get Help If You Suffer From Narcolepsy

It is very important that only a sleep specialist diagnose and treat sleep disorders, including narcolepsy. It can be tempting to try to self-diagnose, and sometimes people think they have narcolepsy simply because they are tired throughout the day. There are many factors, including sleep disorders, that can result in daytime grogginess. This includes sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

With unprecedented staffing levels, patients at The Insomnia and Sleep Institute enjoy access to multiple sleep specialists, a clinical psychologist focused on cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, a physician assistant with a Masters in Sleep Medicine, nurse practitioners trained in sleep medicine, and teams including respiratory therapists along with sleep technicians caring for them.

“I had the best experience at The Insomnia and Sleep and Sleep Institute. The technicians are very friendly. I was very nervous and the technician was very patient and explained everything to me. She communicated to me every step of the way. Made feel at ease. I recommend this place.”

– Angela Zavala

Understanding Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is a type of sleep disorder that results in excessive sleepiness. Patients with this disorder may fall asleep at odd and even dangerous times during the day, such as while driving. It is not uncommon to have other sleep disorders along with hypersomnia. A lack of energy and poor concentration are common signs of hypersomnia. The most well-known hypersomnia is narcolepsy, but there are many others.

Idiopathic hypersomnia is a sleep disorder that presents as an unstoppable need to sleep that may occur multiple times daily. On average, those with idiopathic hypersomnia sleep 12 – 14 hours within a 24-hour timeframe. As the name states, nobody knows the cause of idiopathic hypersomnia.

Kleine-Levin Syndrome is a rare and complex sleep disorder in which recurring episodes of sleeping or excessive sleepiness occurs at inappropriate times in addition to altered behaviors, and a reduced understanding of the world. On average, these episodes can last anywhere from two days to five weeks. Such episodes also tend to happen more than once per year, which can dramatically and negatively impact quality of life.

Insufficient sleep syndrome happens when a person doesn’t get enough sleep, resulting in sleep deprivation. During the daytime, these patients are not alert and feel groggy. However, this is different than choosing to not get enough sleep, such as someone who is charged with around the clock care for another person.

Finally, there is long sleep. A long sleeper routinely sleeps longer than what is considered average for their age. Otherwise, their sleep is high quality and normal. Unfortunately, long sleepers face challenges when they simply don’t have enough waking hours in their day to do everything they need or would like to do.

Narcolepsy | The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona

Treating Narcolepsy and Hypersomnia Conditions

The Insomnia and Sleep Institute is driven by outcomes, and that begins with the right diagnosis. Consultations are exclusively with sleep specialists who diagnose sleep disorders and are the first to guide next steps in testing and treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a number of approved pharmacological treatment options for narcolepsy, including:

  • Armodafinil and modafinil
  •  Xyrem
  •  Sunosi
  •  Wakix
  • Evekeo

There are also treatment options for both narcolepsy and hypersomnia not yet approved by the FDA, but may be recommended and suitable for some patients including stimulant medications like:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Dexedrine

These drugs have been approved to treat other disorders, making them an off-label prescription for treating sleep disorders.  At present, there is no FDA-approved medication for Idiopathic Hypersomnia, but a non-FDA approved medication may be appropriate based on an individual assessment.

Every sleep disorder can be better managed when you work with the leading sleep specialists. The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona has been a sleep clinic from the moment our doors opened in 2013. We provide the best in sleep medicine care with two convenient locations in Phoenix.

What Is Narcolepsy?

What Is Narcolepsy?


Can I cure narcolepsy?2020-12-02T08:11:38-07:00

Currently, no, there is no known cure for narcolepsy. It is a chronic condition. However, with the help of a sleep specialist, you can certainly get the tools and medications necessary to manage the symptoms of narcolepsy for life.

What exactly happens to the body when you suffer from narcolepsy?2020-12-02T08:10:59-07:00

Narcolepsy isn’t as simple as falling asleep while you’re giving a presentation because you’re just so tired. That is often a cliché perpetuated by Hollywood. Most people with narcolepsy are not actually falling asleep or becoming paralyzed during a sleep attack (although that does occur in extreme cases). Narcolepsy is caused by low or absent levels of the neuropeptides orexin-A and orexin-B (otherwise known as hypocretin-1 and hypocretin-2). These neurotransmitters are released during waking hours in patients without narcolepsy, helping to prompt wakefulness. Those with narcolepsy have abnormal amounts of these neurotransmitters working as and when they should, which is why simply “getting enough sleep” does not help with narcolepsy.

How many people have EDS?2020-12-02T08:10:15-07:00

It is estimated that up to 25 percent of people have EDS. Some studies have shown that EDS tends to decrease with age—but other studies have shown that it increases. There are some risk factors for EDS that are controllable, such as treating anxiety or depression and decreasing weight for those who are obese.

What exactly qualifies as excessive daytime sleepiness?2020-12-02T08:09:32-07:00

Excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, is an actual symptom—and one of the most common reasons patients seek out a sleep specialist. Diagnosing EDS requires the patient to have an impaired function due to struggling to stay awake or alert during appropriate times of the day. Patients often complain of feeling tired, having no energy, and feel very fatigued.