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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Sleep Disorders Center


What is Narcolepsy?

People with narcolepsy have episodes of sudden daytime sleeping, usually preceded by drowsiness. The sleep attacks:

  • Last about 15 minutes each
  • May occur several times during a day
  • Usually happen after eating, but may occur at any time, including while driving, talking to someone, or during other situations where there is little movement

Sometimes the person may have dreamlike hallucinations before sleep or during the sleep episode. The person wakes up feeling refreshed after each brief sleep episode.

What Can Be Done About Narcolepsy?

A Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) — also referred to as a "nap study" — may be used to diagnose narcolepsy. There is no known cure for narcolepsy, but there are various treatments available to control symptoms. Lifestyle adjustments and learning to cope with the emotional and other effects of the disorder may improve functioning in work and social activities.


photo of man asleep in chair