Can narcolepsy affect memory and cognitive function

Can narcolepsy affect memory and cognitive function

Can narcolepsy affect memory and cognitive function

Narcolepsy is a sleep disease that makes people feel sleepy during the day. In a normal sleep cycle, a person goes through the early stages of sleep, then deeper stages, and finally rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which generally happens within 60 to 90 minutes. Narcolepsy patients, on the other hand, experience REM sleep within 15 minutes of falling asleep and at random times during the day. REM sleep is linked to vivid thoughts and not being able to move your muscles. It is characterized by this change in sleep patterns, which makes the symptoms worse and makes it harder to go about daily life.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is characterized by four main symptoms, though not all patients with the condition experience all four. These symptoms include:

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

This is a common symptom of narcolepsy that is commonly referred to as “sleep attacks” because of the intense, unexpected need to sleep during the day.

Cataplexy (Sudden Muscle Weakness)

The level of severity of this symptom can range from mild affects on one side of the body to more severe muscle weakness.

Sleep-Related Hallucinations

These intense hallucinations happen when one is about to go from wakefulness to sleep, either right before bedtime or right after.

Sleep Paralysis

People who have this symptom can’t move when they wake up, which can happen all the way or just partly.

Patients with narcolepsy all feel sleepy during the day, but the other symptoms can happen more or less often and be stronger or weaker.

Research on Narcolepsy and Memory

About half of the people who have narcolepsy-cataplexy say they have trouble remembering things, especially recent events. Ten people with narcolepsy who were not being treated (7 men and 3 women, ages 28 to 65) and ten healthy controls took different memory tests, such as digit span, visual reproduction, and logical memory tests. There were no big changes between the groups. This shows that narcoleptics don’t have a natural memory problem. Instead, they have memory problems because they are sleepy, which they can control during short testing sessions.

Impacts of Narcolepsy on Cognitive Function

Narcolepsy can make it hard to think clearly, which can affect many parts of daily life. Some important effects are:

Attention and Concentration 


Being too sleepy during the day can make it hard to concentrate and keep your attention on something, which can make it hard to finish tasks that take sustained mental effort.


Patients frequently complain about memory issues, especially in relation to recent occurrences. Research suggests that narcolepsy-related tiredness is not the cause of these problems, but it can impact memory recall and retention.

Executive Functioning

It can impair the executive functions involved in planning, making decisions, and solving problems. Managing complicated activities and obligations might become difficult as a result, impacting both personal and professional lives.

Reaction Time

People with this condition may take longer to react, which can make it harder to act quickly in different scenarios, which is especially dangerous when doing things like driving.


Having trouble with memory, focus, and attention can all affect the learning process, making it harder for people to learn and remember new things.


Narcolepsy has a significant impact on cognitive performance, especially in areas like memory, attention, and executive functioning. Although subjective memory issues are common, actual memory issues are not the root cause of them. To lessen these cognitive problems, it is very important to handle narcolepsy well.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *