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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    If I have Cataplexy, is a sleep test still required to begin treatment?

    All Narcolepsy symptoms have been present for 12 months. However, my anxiety affects my ability to undertake a sleep test as such situations cause me to have a panic attack.
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  • The Sleep Health Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of ‘valuing sleep’ as part of a healthy lifestyle alongside regular exercise, a … View Profile

    Making a diagnosis of narcolepsy and cataplexy is something usually done based on symptoms. The role of a sleep-test, overnight sleep study then multiple sleep latency test the next day, is to rule out other factors contributing to sleepiness, and help to ‘rule-in’ or support a diagnosis of narcolepsy. But, spending a night and day in a sleep laboratory, can be a confronting experience, so it’s not uncommon for people to feel anxious about it. This can mean it takes them longer to get to sleep in the sleep laboratory than in the home, and can give a false impression of the test being ‘negative’ for narcolepsy. 

    So, having a sleep test is not always required before starting on narcolepsy or cataplexy treatment. Particularly if symptoms are typical and there are not other health problems. However, as the drugs used can be expensive (modafinil) or are very tightly controlled (dexamphetamine, Ritalin), many doctors prefer to get as much information as possible before starting treatment. This is something that needs to be weighed up and managed on a case-by-case basis. 

    Dr David Cunnington, a foundation member of the Sleep Health Foundation.


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