Causes of Narcolepsy

While it is known that narcolepsy is a disorder of the nervous system, the exact causes of narcolepsy are still not completely understood. Some theories include:

  • Narcolepsy may be associated with low levels of hypocretin – a type of protein – in the brain. Hypocretin is responsible for regulating sleep cycles as well as keeping you awake after you get up. People with narcolepsy have significantly lower levels of hypocretin as compared to others. However, why this reduction in protein and chemical imbalance occurs is still unclear.
  • Some believe that narcolepsy is a type of autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to turn on itself and attack from within.
  • Narcolepsy is linked to genetics, as it tends to run in families.
  • Studies show that people report a narcoleptic attack a few days after an important or life-changing event such as a pregnancy, a head trauma, or any other type of psychological stress.
  • Sudden changes in your sleep pattern could also increase your risk of developing narcolepsy.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Imran Ahmed, Michael Thorpy, Clinical Features, Diagnosis and Treatment of Narcolepsy, Clinics in Chest Medicine, Volume 31, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 371-381, ISSN 0272-5231, 10.1016/j.ccm.2010.02.014.
  2. Michael Thorpy, Therapeutic advances in narcolepsy, Sleep Medicine, Volume 8, Issue 4, June 2007, Pages 427-440, ISSN 1389-9457, 10.1016/j.sleep.2007.03.004.
  3. Ian Morrison, Renata L. Riha, Excessive daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy — An approach to investigation and management, European Journal of Internal Medicine, Volume 23, Issue 2, March 2012, Pages 110-117, ISSN 0953-6205, 10.1016/j.ejim.2011.09.005.