Possible complications of narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that is often under-recognized and under-diagnosed. It is marked by excessive daytime sleepiness with frequent daily sleep attacks and may prove to be fatal for the patient. Read here for possible complications of na

Ariba Khaliq
Written by: Ariba KhaliqUpdated at: Jan 17, 2018 02:13 IST
Possible complications of narcolepsy

Imagine a person is driving and he suddenly falls asleep. Scary, isn’t it? Your first reaction would be to call him outright lazy, careless and what not. But, the fact of the matter is that he might not be able to help it because he is suffering from narcolepsy a.k.a. uncontrollable sleepiness.

Yes, there exists a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. A person with narcolepsy often finds it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time and suffers serious disruptions in daily routine.

Narcolepsy is a life-long problem but isn’t progressive. This means that while its symptoms may lessen over time, it never completely disappears. One of the most common effects of narcolepsy on older adults is sleep disturbances at night, which may worsen over time. Listed below are other possible complications of narcolepsy.

Uncontrollable sleep

Risk for accidents

This perhaps can be identified as the most dangerous consequence of narcolepsy. A survey reported that almost 75 percent of patients with narcolepsy to fall asleep while driving and 56 percent of them had accidents. People with the disorder may inflict harm on themselves under bouts of sleep by touching hot objects, touching sharp objects and breaking things.

Effects on mental functioning

Studies have reported people with narcolepsy to struggle with memory, thinking and attention. It is not clear if these problems are caused due to tiredness and episodes of sleepiness or brain abnormalities.

Emotional and social difficulties

Your personal and professional life may suffer at the hands of narcolepsy. You might come across as lazy, lethargic or rude to people. Sudden attacks of sleep might affect your performance at work or school. 

According to studies, rates of depression among people with narcolepsy vary from 30 to 57 percent as compared with 8 percent in the general population. A severe dysfunction of social, emotional, professional and leisure relationships has also been associated with it.

Interference with intimate relationships

A person’s sex drive and potency may be harmed by extreme sleepiness because people with narcolepsy may fall asleep even while having sex. Sexual dysfunction can be further complicated by emotional difficulties. You may have intense feelings of anger or joy, which may in turn trigger cataplexy, a medical condition in which strong emotion or laughter causes a person to suffer sudden physical collapse, though they remain conscious. 


Narcolepsy increases patient’s chances of being obese by double. Inactivity, binge eating, hypocretin deficiency or a combination of factors may cause this weight gain.

There’s no cure for narcolepsy, but the symptoms can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Support from near and dear ones can help you cope with narcolepsy.

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