Narcolepsy is a chronic, incurable disorder affecting at least a quarter of a million Americans. It is characterized by a tetrad of symptoms, which include excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis and hypnogogic hallucinations. Individuals may experience severe negative psychosocial consequences associated with these symptoms. The neuropathology of narcolepsy is largely unknown. Current work implicates decreased production or utilization of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin in the brain, and excessively numerous or hypersensitive cholinergic receptors in the brain. Medical management includes the use of separate drug therapies to control sleep attacks and cataplectic episodes. Nursing management requires comprehensive assessment of the interplay between the patient and environment and assistance with long-term coping.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Debra L. Bergstrom, RN, BSN. CCRN. 501 S. Oak, Chandler, Arizona 85226. She is a critical care nurse clinician at Desert Samaritan Hospital.
Colleen Keller, RN, PhD, CCRN is an associate professor at Arizona State University.
© 1992 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses