How is narcolepsy differentiated from childhood obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Updated: Feb 13, 2019
  • Author: Mary E Cataletto, MD; Chief Editor: Denise Serebrisky, MD  more...
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Narcolepsy is a disease characterized by irresistible sleeping attacks that occur intermittently throughout the day. It is included in the differential diagnosis of excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with narcolepsy are tired throughout the day; thus, the disorder can be confused with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. A history of episodic sleep-onset paralysis, hypnagogic (sleep-onset) hallucinations, or daytime memory lapses with automatic behaviors may help differentiate between narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep paralysis is a frightening experience that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes, during which an individual can breathe and move the eyes but otherwise cannot speak or move.

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