Narcolepsy is a type of sleep disorder. Patients usually show symptoms such as excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and even cataplexy (partial or total loss of muscle control, caused by intense emotions such as laughter).
Narcolepsy is thought to be caused by a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin or orexin, responsible for the regulation of sleep. Orexin deficiency can result from the immune system mistakenly attacking parts of the brain that produce hypocretin.
Narcolepsy rarely develops after the age of 40. Specific genetic factors can contribute to narcolepsy.
First-degree relatives of narcoleptic patients have a 20-40-fold increased risk of experiencing narcolepsy with cataplexy, suggesting it has a genetic component.
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