Falling asleep suddenly without warning

HCA UK's experts can help to diagnose and treat a range of sleep disorders, including narcolepsy.. Find out more.


At HCA UK, our team of experts specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of sleep disorders including narcolepsy (a rare long-term brain disorder that results in a person falling asleep suddenly without warning during the day).

Need to know

  • Symptoms of narcolepsy icon plus

    Narcolepsy occurs when the brain is unable to properly regulate sleeping and waking patterns. Although it does not cause long-term health problems, it can result in significant impacts on your daily life.

    The exact cause of narcolepsy is often unclear, but it is thought to be the result of a lack of a brain chemical called hypocretin, also known as orexin, which regulates wakefulness.The most common symptoms are:

    • Extreme tiredness (fatigue) during the day
    • Suddenly falling asleep without warning (a sleep attack)
    • A temporary loss of muscle control as a result of laughter or anger (cataplexy)
    • The inability to move during sleep (sleep paralysis)
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your GP or consultant will discuss your narcolepsy symptoms with you. Tests they may recommend include:

    • Filling out an Epworth sleepiness scale questionnaire to determine how likely you are to fall asleep during different activities
    • Attending a specialist sleep clinic to assess the problems that you are having
    • Respiratory sleep study (to monitor your breathing, blood oxygen levels and heart rate)
    • Polysomnography (a sleep study that records your brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing and eye and leg movements)
    • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor brainwaves
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Treatment options for your sleep disorder depend on the nature of your condition. Your GP or consultant may consider recommending:

    • Counselling such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you better manage unhelpful thoughts and habits relating to sleep
    • Advice on how to practice good sleeping habits such as taking brief, frequent naps during the day and sticking to a strict bedtime routine.
    • Medicines to stimulate your central nervous system and help you stay awake during the day

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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