Researchers hypothesize that narcolepsy is a result of dysfunction within the body's sleep cycle regulation, but they do not know how to prevent this disorder from developing or how to completely stop it once it does manifest in a person.
The latter half of the 20th century was an exciting time in the history of narcolepsy, and one major development occurred in 1957 when Mayo clinic doctors Robert Yoss and David Daly officially united the four classic narcolepsy symptoms.
Progress continued with Stanford University professor Dr. William Dement's establishment of the first narcolepsy clinic in San Francisco following an overwhelming local response to his recruitment efforts for a narcolepsy study.
As of the early 2000s, narcolepsy is thought to be an orexin deficiency syndrome; that is, it develops when a person's hypothalamus does not secrete enough orexins to keep the person from falling asleep at inappropriate times.
It is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy (uncontrollable desire for sleep or sudden attacks of deep sleep), and other conditions as determined by a physician or other healthcare provider.
If the doctor is considering breathing-related sleep disorders, myoclonus, or narcolepsy as possible diagnoses, he or she may ask the patient to be tested in a sleep laboratory or at home with portable instruments.
Those suffering from conditions like narcolepsy, severe insomnia or sleep apnea may need to keep a log of their sleep quality over the initial treatment period, so doctors can determine if treatments are working.
Doctors rule out conditions that cause symptoms that resemble seizure disorders, including small strokes (transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs), fainting (syncope), pseudoseizures, and sleep attacks (narcolepsy).
Children with narcolepsy have often been misdiagnosed as having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, while adolescents have sometimes been misdiagnosed as having substance abuse or personality disorders.
In a few cases, the first signs of narcolepsy are triggered by traumatic damage to the part of the brain that governs REM sleep or from a rapidly growing tumor that puts pressure on this region of the brain.