Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder of the sleep-wake cycle, characterized by persistent and excessive daytime sleepiness, nighttime sleep disturbances, and REM sleep-related phenomena that disrupt wakefulness. There are two types of narcolepsy – NT1 is associated with cataplexy (sudden changes in muscle tone that can be triggered by strong emotions) and NT2 does not present with muscle weakness.

Narcolepsy can have widespread impacts on daily life, including challenges with employment, school, and relationships. Although women and men are about equally affected and report similar narcolepsy-related symptoms, women are more likely to experience a lengthier pathway to an accurate diagnosis, up to 12 years longer than men. Many women with narcolepsy also face challenges during pregnancy and lactation, having to decide whether to stop medical treatment during this time. Building awareness about narcolepsy symptoms and treatment options among both patients and providers will offer women opportunities to identify symptoms earlier, reduce the delay in obtaining appropriate care, and make informed decisions about treatment throughout the life course.

Narcolepsy is part of the SWHR Sleep Network, which engages the following focus areas: Narcolepsy and Sleep Health.

Program Goals

  • Review the science and health care landscape and develop strategies to address knowledge gaps and unmet needs related to the research, diagnosis, and treatment of narcolepsy in women across the lifespan
  • Identify opportunities to leverage innovation and increase access to equitable care, and reduce disparities and disease burden for women living with narcolepsy
  • Promote science-based health care policies around narcolepsy to improve patient outcomes
  • Develop materials to expand education, raise awareness, and remove stigma about narcolepsy for women, health care providers, employers, and policy stakeholders

Facts about Narcolepsy

70 million

Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders


of adolescents with narcolepsy have cataplexy


of women report stopping narcolepsy medications during pregnancy

More about Narcolepsy