What tests confirm a diagnosis of narcolepsy?
If your doctor suspects that you may have narcolepsy, he or she will usually refer you to a specialized sleep center where you will undergo polysomnographic testing. This involves measurement of the electrical activity in your brain as you fall asleep and while asleep and will usually entail an overnight stay. Staff at the center will also take a detailed history of your symptoms.

How is narcolepsy treated?
There is no known cure for this life-long condition. Lifestyle changes may be needed to take account of the symptoms. The changes required will depend on the individual sufferer and may include changes in employment. A person with severe symptoms may potentially cause harm to themselves and others. Therefore, some people may be unable to drive or follow occupations involving operation of machinery or use of hazardous products. There are three medicines available that may help the symptoms: dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), modafinil (Provigil), or armodafinil (Nuvigil). These medicines are available only by prescription. Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) may be used to treat cataplexy in adults with narcolepsy.

Self-help measures

  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night and sleep for 8 hours
  • Avoid moderate exercise within 3 hours of going to bed
  • Keep the bedroom as a quiet room without distractions such as television or a computer
  • Try to do something relaxing before bed such as taking a warm bath
  • Avoid tea, coffee or other caffeinated drinks
  • Avoid alcohol

Further information
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/narcolepsy/narcolepsy.htm

Last Reviewed: May 2013