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During REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly even though your eyelids stay shut. Dreaming mainly happens during REM sleep, when your body becomes limp and you are unable to move your muscles. This temporary inability to move prevents you from acting out any dreams that you may be having.
Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes a person to have difficulty staying awake. Narcolepsy can cause a person to suddenly fall asleep during the day. These “sleep attacks” occur even after getting enough sleep at night.
Normally, when people fall asleep they first have NREM (nonrapid eye movement) sleep. Then they go through a period of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. People with narcolepsy have a different sleep pattern. They often fall into REM sleep before NREM sleep. Also, in people with narcolepsy, the fine line between being asleep and being awake can be blurred. They often find that certain aspects of REM sleep can happen while they are awake.
Normal Sleep Pattern
Narcolepsy Sleep Pattern
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. www.nhlbi.nih.gov
Research suggests that the cause of narcolepsy is a lack of the chemical in the brain called hypocretin. This chemical stimulates brain cells and helps promote wakefulness. It is not known why hypocretin is missing in people who have narcolepsy.