Reading Induced Sleep

Patient

Q: Is there a treatable medical condition - 'reading induced narcolepsy?'

Symptoms:  Uncontrollable sleep whenever I read. Ever since high school I've experienced sleepiness/unconsciousness whenever I read. I have daytime sleepiness throughout the day, but when I read it goes from a "5-6" to a "10+" I've tried diet changes, exercise before, reading while standing, shorter periods of reading... but nothing seems to help. I'm working on a Master's degree and hoping to go on to Ph.D. work, but since 95% of the work is reading and research I need to be able to stay alert and productive for HOURS not minutes.
Doctor

A:   Welcome to Ask The Doctor.
We are here to guide you on this medical health advice platform.

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder in which a person has daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. It has many causes. So, we need to find out the cause behind your daytime sleepiness. Every time the daytime sleepiness is not Narcolepsy. The most common symptoms being Cataplexy (loss of muscle control), Hallucinations, Sleep paralysis, nighttime wakefulness.

The exact cause remains unknown, but it is believed that the reduction of a neuropeptide called hypocretin causes this problem. The most common cause for daytime sleeping is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you snore in the night, you would get a disturbed sleep in night and this can cause excessive daytime sleepiness specially during the strenuous activities for the mind. In your case, that is reading.
So, ask your partner that do you snore heavily in the night. If yes, you would require evaluation for the same.
It is a big possibility that you don't have Narcolepsy.
So, in any case you need Polysomnography and Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). This test measures how long it takes for you to fall asleep during the day.

Another new method is Spinal fluid analysis for hypocretin. However, the test is not widely available as is costly.
Now coming to the treatment part. If you have obstructive sleep apnea then you would require a BIPAP machine to help you breathe properly and sleep comfortably in night.

For narcolepsy, there are no special medicines to cure it. The medicines which are available can help in controlling the symptoms. Most commonly and widely used drug is Modafinil. I personally have found it very effective in my patients with Narcolepsy.
Other drugs are Dexamphatamine, Antidepressants, Methylphenidate, Clomipramine. However, the best one is Modafinil.
Now coming to your particular question. There is no defined different term like "Reading associated Narcolepsy" but it is considered as a part of Narcolepsy if it is associated with other symptoms as mentioned above, this would be considered Narcolepsy and warrants further investigations as discussed.

This is my best opinion for you based on available details. If you have any further questions, you are most welcome.
I hope it helps.
Stay Healthy.

Comments / Follow Ups

Patient: Thank you. I do not suffer from sleep apnea. I typically get a good solid 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Do your provide medical prescriptions for modafinil or armodafinil? We live in a very rural area and do not have access to any sleep specialists/labs in our area.
Patient: PS I scored a 19 our of 25 on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
Doctor: Hello. Sorry we don't provide any prescriptions here. Here we just provide information to help you.

Please feel free to ask follow ups and we are glad to answer all of your queries.
Doctor: Hi this EPS score falls into Moderately Severe Narcolepsy or Sleep Apnea.
You are a candidate for Sleep study. You should go for that.
Good luck.

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