The most important features of narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, cataplexy, automatic behavior, and hypnagogic hallucinations. These four classic narcoleptic symptoms, excluding EDS, are commonly called the “tetrad of narcolepsy”.
Here is a brief description of all the five major symptoms of this neurological disorder:
- EDS: An individual having narcolepsy has a high propensity to doze off suddenly, without any prior warning, at inappropriate places and timings. The patient tends to feel tired all day long, even after the right amount of nocturnal sleep. Disturbance in nocturnal and daytime sleeping patterns is a distinguishing characteristic of narcolepsy and is often uncontrollable and irresistible by the patient. The feeling of drowsiness and fatigue persists throughout the day.
- Sleep Paralysis: It is characterized by momentary incapability of the patient to move or talk when falling asleep or waking up. Although this temporary paralysis may be frightening, it is not at all dangerous.
- Cataplexy: Similar to epileptic seizures, cataplexy refers to an intermittent condition characterized by gradual weakening of muscle functions, induced by abrupt emotional responses, like that of anger, laughter, fear, or surprise. It may involve mild muscle weakness or even total collapse of body, depending on the severity of the condition.
- Hypnagogic Hallucinations: They refer to dramatic, often terrifying, trancelike experiences that come to mind while falling asleep, awakening, and/or while dozing.
- Automatic Behavior: According to an estimate, nearly 40percent of narcolepsy patients exhibit automatic behavior while sleeping. The patient goes on with his normal day activities even in sleep, but wakes up with not a slightest memory of having performed them.
EDS and cataplexy are two symptoms that are unique to narcolepsy and set it apart from other neurological disorders.
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