Narcolepsy: a review

GS Akintomide, Hugh Rickards

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Narcolepsy is a lifelong sleep disorder characterized by a classic tetrad of excessive daytime sleepiness with irresistible sleep attacks, cataplexy (sudden bilateral loss of muscle tone), hypnagogic hallucination, and sleep paralysis. There are two distinct groups of patients, ie, those having narcolepsy with cataplexy and those having narcolepsy without cataplexy. Narcolepsy affects 0.05% of the population. It has a negative effect on the quality of life of its sufferers and can restrict them from certain careers and activities. There have been advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of narcolepsy. It is thought that narcolepsy with cataplexy is secondary to loss of hypothalamic hypocretin neurons in those genetically predisposed to the disorder by possession of human leukocyte antigen DQB1*0602. The diagnostic criteria for narcolepsy are based on symptoms, laboratory sleep tests, and serum levels of hypocretin. There is no cure for narcolepsy, and the present mainstay of treatment is pharmacological treatment along with lifestyle changes. Some novel treatments are also being developed and tried. This article critically appraises the evidence for diagnosis and treatment of narcolepsy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-518
Number of pages12
JournalNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • narcolepsy
  • modafinil
  • hypocretin
  • gamma hydroxybutyrate
  • cataplexy


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