Narcolepsy - Self-Tests & Diagnosis
Have you had the sudden urge to sleep during the day even though you’re getting enough sleep at night?
Have you fallen asleep while working, eating or speaking with someone?
Have you felt alert after a brief nap but then the alertness quickly changes to sleepiness?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, there is a chance that you have narcolepsy. Since narcolepsy is not a common sleep problem, many primary care physicians have difficulty diagnosing the sleep disorder. A board-certified sleep medicine physician can help make the proper diagnosis. Schedule an appointment with a sleep medicine physician at an AASM Accredited Sleep Disorders Center. He or she will perform a combination of the tests to help determine if you have narcolepsy:
In-lab overnight sleep study
Also known as a polysomnogram, a sleep study requires you to stay overnight at a sleep center so a physician can observe and measure your sleep. You will sleep with sensors attached to different parts of your body that record your brain waves, heartbeat and other aspects of your sleep. This test will show if there are other problems, such as sleep apnea, that are causing your excessive daytime sleepiness or sleep attacks. Read more...
Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)
Also known as a nap study, the MSLT measures your daytime sleepiness. The test requires you to attempt to take multiple naps a sleep lab at set times throughout the day. It is used to see how quickly you fall asleep in quiet daytime situations. For each nap trial you are asked to lie quietly in bed in a dark room and try to go to sleep. Most people with narcolepsy fall asleep in an average of three minutes during the MSLT. Read more...
Hypocretin Level Measurement
In rare cases, the physician will need to measure your hypocretin (orexin) levels. Hypocretin is the neurotransmitter that controls arousal, wakefulness and appetite. People with narcolepsy with cataplexy usually have a lack of hypocretin. Because this exam requires a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) it is rarely used.