Since its inception in 1985, the Narcolepsy Institute provides psychosocial support services to individuals with narcolepsy and their families. Free services are provided for people who live in New York City with their families and whose narcolepsy qualifies as a developmental disability. Narcolepsy is a developmental disability if it occurs before the age of 22 and presents difficulties in school, work, mobility, self-care, communication, and other activities of daily living.
Narcolepsy is a neurological condition, characterized by an irresistible urge to sleep during the day, vivid dreams, cataplexy (muscular weakness with strong emotions), sleep paralysis and disturbed nighttime sleep. Intermittent episodes of daytime sleepiness may occur during a conversation, while reading, watching television, driving or riding in a subway or bus. The symptoms are not relieved by adequate sleep at night, but can be controlled with medication, structured sleep schedules, and other non-pharmacological approaches. Other common symptoms reported by many patients are muscular weakness, fatigue, inability to concentrate, problems with memory and a low level of motivation. The age of onset is adolescence but the condition may be misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorder, depression, epilepsy or a learning disability. Often a youngster may be labeled as "lazy" or "unmotivated" because of his/her tendency to sleep during the daytime. Recent studies document the effect of narcolepsy on education, employment, and marital and social relationships of patients. Persons with narcolepsy manifest high levels of depressive episodes, anxiety, lethargy, and social introversion.