Sleep Home > Cause of Narcolepsy

It is not known exactly why narcolepsy occurs. However, researchers currently believe that multiple factors interact to cause the disorder. Some researchers believe that narcolepsy is caused by a variation of certain genes located on chromosome 6. Other possible causes include tumor growth and traumatic injuries to certain parts of the brain involved in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

  

An Introduction to the Cause of Narcolepsy

No one knows the exact cause or causes of narcolepsy (a condition characterized by brief attacks of deep sleep). Doctors can seldom explain why one person gets narcolepsy and another does not. Research scientists currently believe that narcolepsy may be caused by multiple factors interacting to cause neurological dysfunction and sleep disturbances.
 

Genetic Influence

One possible cause of narcolepsy is a variation of certain genes located on chromosome 6. This gene portion, known as HLA complex, has been shown to be associated with narcolepsy. The majority of people diagnosed with narcolepsy have specific variations in these HLA genes. However, many people in the general population without narcolepsy also have these variations. Therefore, scientists believe the altered HLA gene increases an individual's chance of developing narcolepsy, but it is not the only reason a person develops narcolepsy.
 
Many other genes besides the HLA complex may contribute to the development of narcolepsy.
 

Other Possible Narcolepsy Causes

Other factors appear to play important roles in the development of narcolepsy. Some rare cases of narcolepsy are known to result from traumatic injuries to parts of the brain involved in REM sleep or from tumor growth and other disease processes in the same regions.
 
Some other factors that could have an effect on the development of narcolepsy include:
 
  • Infections
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Dietary factors
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes (such as those occurring during puberty or menopause).
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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