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Answering FAQs About Cataplexy

Cataplexy is a frustrating complication of narcolepsy. It affects about 60 to 70 percent of people who have the sleep disorder, and it can interfere dramatically with school, work, and daily life. If you or someone you love has cataplexy, you are likely to have many questions about the condition. Here are the answers to some of the questions people frequently have about cataplexy.  

What is cataplexy? 

Cataplexy is a condition that causes sudden loss of muscle strength or paralysis. When sufferers experience it, their knees may buckle, causing them to fall to the floor, or they may become unable to move. During a cataplectic attack, the person suffering from the condition will remain awake and aware but be unable to control his or her muscle tone or movement. These episodes are caused by the brain’s inability to manage sleep and wake cycles in people with narcolepsy. Often, people fall asleep after experiencing an episode of cataplexy.  

Are there any triggers for cataplexy? 

Most people have episodes after experiencing strong emotions. The emotions can be positive or negative, from excitement or laughter to disappointment and crying. The number of episodes that people with narcolepsy experience varies greatly. Most people eventually learn their own triggers and try to avoid them as much as possible.  

What treatments are available for cataplexy? 

There are several medications that can help people with cataplexy control their symptoms, including tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Because these medications have side effects, it’s helpful to work with a sleep medicine specialist with experience in treating narcolepsy to find the right balance of symptom relief and side effect management. Treatment is usually only recommended with cataplexy episodes if they are frequent and disruptive.  

Sleep Dynamics offers diagnosis and treatment of narcolepsy for people dealing with this complex disorder. If you have been diagnosed with narcolepsy in Central New Jersey or want to learn more about diagnostic testing and treatment options, please call us at (848) 217-0240. 


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