Here’s What Causes Narcolepsy

Here’s What Causes Narcolepsy

When you think of narcolepsy, you probably
think of people falling asleep at seemingly random times, but it’s actually much more
than that. It causes hallucinations, insomnia and sleep
paralysis and can be triggered by moments of joy. Oh, and the key to understanding it came from
studying man’s best friend. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder where
your brain loses its ability to control its sleep-wake cycle. This includes symptoms like cataplexy, a condition
that causes uncontrollable muscle weakness or paralysis which is often triggered by excitement
or laughter, and hypnagogic hallucinations, which is basically when you start to dream
before you fall asleep. That’s great. It would be white wine. Hello my name is Emmanuel Mignot, I’m a professor
at Stanford. I’m a medical doctor and a researcher and
I’ve been working for 30 years on a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a very strange disorder… So initially people thought it was even a
type of seizure. But then when people looked they said no,
it’s not seizures, they are more sleeping. But narcolepsy isn’t really about falling
asleep, it’s about not being able to stay awake – and the role of a specific neuropeptide
made in a very small region of the brain. The region that’s called hypothalamus which
is just above the optic nerve. So very important, very primitive part of
the brain that regulates sleep, appetite, very basic physiology. And these cells that produce hypocretin are
all there. Hypocretin, also known as orexin, is a neuropeptide
that is responsible for keeping you awake. Once released, hypocretin travels throughout
the brain activating other cells, like those responsible for creating things like dopamine,
histamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These brain cells then start to fire more,
releasing their respective chemicals which, in turn, further stimulate your brain. And the other thing it does is and that’s
a little bit less understood but it can also control your dreaming. So is that when this chemical is absent, dreams
come too strongly and too fast. And that’s why you have all these weird symptoms
of dreaming too much and the dreams are almost real and sometimes you are paralyzed at the
wrong time because you are paralyzed during dreaming. So the two main function of this chemical
is: one is to stay awake voluntarily and the second one is to control your dreams so that
your dreams don’t come too fast into wakefulness. And this chemical is very important…and
when it’s not there you have narcolepsy. It took me 10 years to figure out the cause
of narcolepsy in terms of losing the hypocretin cells. Then it took me 15 years to figure out why
the cells were missing. This is the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus, but you
may know it as the swine flu. Dr Mignot and team noticed that during the
2009 swine flu pandemic, there was a significant uptick in narcolepsy cases. And that I have to say we discovered by chance
that it seems to be the flu that triggers this abnormal reaction… In fact we discovered that there is a piece
of this 2009 swine flu that looks very much like hypocretin. And then instead of attacking just the flu
the cells start to attack hypocretin and then it kills the cells that produce it. And then once the process is started then
it starts to be more and more inflamed and then it kills the hypocretin cell thinking
is the flu infected cells and then you don’t have anymore hypocretin cells and then you
have narcolepsy for the rest of your life. The immune system attacking hypocretin producing
cells is why many people categorize narcolepsy as an autoimmune disease. But this response doesn’t happen to everyone
who gets the flu virus. In fact, I like to say that to develop narcolepsy,
you have to have a series of bad luck. You know because really your immune system
has to be primed a certain way and you have to get the flu at a certain time together
with a certain immune background to genetic background to really develop narcolepsy. So it’s like a perfect storm to develop
narcolepsy. But humans aren’t the only ones to develop
narcolepsy. It can affect dogs and as well as horses and
bulls. In fact, by studying narcolepsy in dogs, Dr
Mignot and others were able to initially make the connection between hypocretin and staying
awake. And at the end you know one breakthrough was
actually which found a family of dachshund with narcolepsy. I still remember the dog. It was Fritz. Narcolepsy in dogs is a genetic disease, so
researchers were able to map the mutation that caused narcolepsy in dog families, notably
in Fritz, and found a very important mutation. And then finally we discovered that this gene
was a mutation in a receptor for a chemical called orexin, or hypocretin. From there Dr Mignot and his team were able
to focus their study of narcolepsy in humans and eventually come to their breakthrough
connecting it to the hypothalamus and the swine flu. Fritz was really key. Thanks Fritz…good dog.


  1. I love it how the doctor explains how he discovered narcolepsy, instead of just telling us he somehow discovered it.

  2. Thank you so much for this incredible video. Now I can share it with some of my friends who don't understand me and think that I just need more sleep at night. I seriously love this channel😊😍.

  3. Interesting video. Wish they had described the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 narcolepsy. Quite a substantial difference. People with Type 2 generally have normal levels of hypocretin so it’s kind of strange. Educational video nonetheless tho!

  4. I don't know much about narcolepsy, but could it be treated by medications that prevent the reuptake of hypocretin?

  5. I think my cat is narcoleptic…
    My previous cat, also narcoleptic…
    My neighbors cat, also narcoleptic…

  6. Thanks for the video. I have Narcolepsy & it has had a massive effect on my life. I’m so grateful for this doctor’s research.

  7. Ok, great. We know what is the most likely cause. CAN WE GET A PILL, SHOT, OR DRINK TO TREAT IT NOW?!?

  8. Outstanding work by the researchers, and superb video! To have it explained so succinctly by the man himself, Dr. Emmanuel Mignot. Well done, all around.

  9. FINALLY!!! shout out to my narcoleptic brothers and sister. I've got the fun one with cataplexy and it's about damn time someone does a narcolepsy video that isn't a cartoon guy in a sleeping cap.

  10. Almost 25 years spent on finding out about something that was always obvious. But didn't explain a cure for it. Which is what we been waiting 25 years for. Lmao. Scientist now a days.

  11. Love the video! As a Narcoleptic its good to have a video to show people instead of trying to explain it.

  12. I had no idea having the h1n1 virus could cause someone to have narcolepsy. Hearing that was a like a light bulb going off in my head. Back in 2009 I had swine flu. Watching this video makes me pretty sure I have narcolepsy in part due to the h1n1 virus.

  13. It's nice having someone who knows what they are talking about explain a scientific breakthrough (especially when they are partly or mostly responsible themselves for that breakthrough) instead of a parrot who is trying (way too hard) to be "hip" and "exciting" and just comes off as condescending and intelligent.

  14. I feel like I have narcolepsy, I’m sleepy all the time and then I gotta drink lots of caffeine and take sleeping pills to offset the effects of the caffeine and it’s a horrible cycle 🥺

  15. How CONVENIENT for pharmaceutical companies.
    How about other recommended vaccines and their side effects?
    Also caused other illnesses, which when taken care of will cost you a huge amount of money.
    Just sayin.

  16. nice content. the thumbnail is dull, maybe the reason for low view count. but it was an interesting topic

  17. Haha "Can it be white wine?" – great video Seeker folk! Loved the animations and loved learning about something that I had zero understanding of!

  18. Kudos for his persistence. 10 years to figure out cause and 15 years to figure out why lol talk about dedication

  19. Narcolepsy is NOT brought on by emotion. Cataplectic seizures are. First 30 seconds & you're wrong. Hypnogogic hallucinations are light behind the eyes. Lucid dreaming is wakeful. There may be good stuff here, but 40 seconds in & the mistakes are huge. Get it right or get it off of youtube because I'm tired of correcting misinformation about me to others in the real world they learned from this bs. Your doctor is behavioral.& psychology? That's the CRAP that hurts narcoleptics. Only neurologists focused on neural science should be involved. This is frustrating. I don't @#$^&#^# have SWINE FLU? is this a joke? What … the … @#$%? It is an auto immune disorder! Ohhhh… bad luck. Well, there you go… science, people. STUPID!

  20. Yes please do one on Schizophrenia! My son had symptoms from the age of 5 after a horrible device and was diagnosed at the age of 12. All the books available in librarys say that you can't have a normal life… I believe that is not true and we have raised our son to believe that he will have to work a little harder then most but he has every right and chance of having a normal life, job, friends, and a family of his own one day. He has just turned 16 years old and is A-B honor roll.

  21. I also have a few questions about this information and wanted to know if anyone knows someone or this doctor could answer them?

  22. Having nightmares manifest in reality before you properly fall asleep causing extreme terror, which in turn causes cataplexy, which in turn makes the brain fall asleep partially again and manifest more nightmares, getting myself stuck in a perpetual cycle of sleep paralysis and nightmare hallucinations assaulting your every sense while getting constantly paralysed. Not a fun time, I became afraid of sleep and insomniac. Thankfully, everything is better now that it's medicated.

  23. Literally crying, after 8 years of living with narcolepsy I hope they can somehow make a pill with this discovery

  24. Vaccines are very safe, but … Can certain parts of a flu vaccine (ie: virus parts) mimic neuropeptides like hypocretin or possibly other neurotransmitters (eg: dopamine)? If so, can a flu vaccine risk causing narcolepsy (or other disease like a movement disorder) in a person with risk factors?

    [Dear anti-vaxers: Vaccines are very safe, prevent disease, save lives, and avoid suffering. The likelihood of vaccines causing health issues is nearly zero. Weigh that against the risk of the disease being prevented.]

  25. It seems like our immune systems are easily subverted or cranked into overdrive. Would think that creatures as adaptable as humans would have more adaptive immune systems as well.

  26. 2 qus: 1. Can flue vaccine, like flu virus itself, induce the immune response that destroys hypocretin and brings on narcolepsy?

    2. What are prospects for this research leading to a cure?

  27. Man, I might actually have narcolepsy, but I have no idea.
    If I did it would explain so many things.
    Why I'm always the exact same amount of sleepy everyday despite being asleep for 12 hours vs 5 hours.
    Why I get sleep paralysis almost EVERY SINGLE DAY.
    Why I wake up so many times when I sleep.
    Why my sleep cycle is completely messed up, and I fall asleep at random times at night and wake up at random times.
    And why it's hard to sleep at night, sometimes it feels like insomnia.
    And that thing I sometimes get when it's like, I'm half-conscious and I'm getting these dreams, but still aware of my real surrounds and still hearing, or think I'm hearing, sound from my real environment, and it happens just when I sleep, or half-sleep. And apparently, NO ONE I tell can relate, I don't think it's normal . . . .

    But then, it would also mean I am in a constant state of extreme sleep deprivation my entire life and cannot make it any better. And that would honestly make a lot of sense. But I just kind of don't want it to be true.
    How does a deep restorative sleep feel like then? How does it feel to actually be "refreshed" after sleeping?
    HOW DOES IT FEEL LIKE?!!? I want to know!!!! 😭
    Do I not already know? Because I've never really ever felt "refreshed". Every night just feels like a nap where I feel awake after I wake up, but then easily get drowsy 30 minutes later.
    And it never feels deep and restorative, the best I got was just "smooth", usually I'm just waking up in the middle of it, or just getting sleep paralysis somewhere in it.

    I have very distinctive types of sleep paralysis. Not sure if this happens with anyone else. There's the waking up version, which is just me laying on my bed not moving and trying to wake up, and I usually get an annoying sensation like constant force or pressure on random parts of my body replicating different things. Like once was a replication of a giant spider biting my armpit while I was paralyzed. I did not see the spider, but I did have a previous dream of one tackling me.

    The other type is DURING my dreams. I'd just get a paralysis feeling while a dream is happening, and get a some feeling of my real environment. It ends in two ways, either I force out of it, or it stops and my dream continues as normal.

    Does any of you random comment readers think I have narcolepsy? Or I'm lucky and this is all just rubbish internet paranoia.
    Or even better, to the people that actually have narcolepsy reading this comment, what do you think?

  28. I've had Type 1 Narcolepsy for 31 of my 38 years on earth. Type 1, meaning, with Cataplexy, and all the other 'fun' symptoms it comes with. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. The Doctor Mignots of the world, give us hope. 1:01 "Narcolepsy isn't really about falling asleep, it's about not being able to stay awake" Frickin' nailed it!

  29. For many years doctors thought I had absent seizures, taking the medication for it only made my narcolepsy worse. Here recently they sent me to a sleep specialist that concluded I had narcolepsy. It sucks having this and honestly I wouldn't wish it to my worst enemy… it's just to much to deal with ;-;

  30. Thats crazy. I would always gets these insanely vivid and unforgettable dreams whenever i got the flu. I even woke up and got out of bed one time still believing i was in a dream. I guess this kinda explains why.

  31. I got very sick with the swine flu when I was 6 it was awful soon after I developed sleep paralysis and have awful dreams it’s been 10 years later and it still occurs at least once a week, this blew my mind

  32. Great video! Very important that people know Narcolepsy is auto-immune caused brain damage. People with Narcolepsy (PwN) even develop a glial scar, just like survivors of stroke. Also, you can develop Narcolepsy by experiencing a Traumatic Brain Injury (or TBI- like from multiple concussions, or car accidents) if that same area of the brain is damaged. So many tend to write off Narcolepsy in invalidating ways, saying we're lazy or just need to drink more coffee or whatever. Nope, it's actual brain damage. Grateful for this professor and all those who are seeking to understand and better treat Narcolepsy!
    Hoping for more medications to help increase deep wave/restful sleep (which PwN greatly lack due to high REM and unregulated sleep stages), as there are currently only two meds that do this. Many don't respond to them or have unbearable side effects or reactions. There are many stimulants out there and in development, but many can not handle stims for various reasons. We sorely need more options for the sleep aspect of treatment! The current two medications are GABA-B agonists, but maybe there is even another way we could get the same result. Like how one of the new stimulants acts on histamine receptors which hasn't been done before. Here's hoping.

  33. I remember that during the swine flu epidemic the local media said that vaccines caused the narcolepsy…

  34. When you feel bad is the "ADRENALS" fix the ADRENAL GLAD YOU LIVE HAPPY FOREVER that is what I did.

  35. Ever since I had the swine flu in 2009 (I was in 6th grade), I've been chronically exhausted and was diagnosed with sleep apnea in sophomore year of high school. I'm certain h1n1 was at least partially responsible.

  36. This video series is awesome. Kudos to all the Seeker crew and medical specialists that made it possible. Surprisingly I wasn't expecting swine to get any worse than already being a source for Trichinella spiralis, Taenia solium and Ascaris suum. I was aware of the H1N1 virus, unaware that it's a strong risk factor for narcolepsy. 😨.

  37. Does that means i dont have to use my useless medication and back to the land of the living or should i have to wait for a 10 or 20 another yrs ?

  38. I used Modafinil for a couple of months, and it totally killed the symptoms, but sometimes I'd be awake for 3-4 Days.

  39. this is really informative!! thank you seeker for inviting dr. mignot! thank you dr. mignot for being so determined in your research and explaining so well!!

  40. So nice to see narcolepsy addressed and new discoveries being made. I have it, and it's always been surrounded by a cloud of mystery even in the medical community. Thank you!

  41. Dr mignot please research how we can increase hypocretin levels artificially to understand one more sleep disorder called Kleine Levin syndrome

  42. ERROR at 12 seconds. Narcolepsy isn't triggered by joy, this is cataplexy. As a person with narcolepsy, this distinction is important, because during a cataplexy attack, the narcoleptic is still aware of the world around them, they just are limp and unable to respond because of the paralysis of voluntary muscles. Sleep attacks are different from cataplexy attacks, even though they appear similar to the onlooker.

  43. After my diagnosis, I was told by my specialist that my family is the rare case of human narcolepsy caused by mutation. My Grandfather, his mother, my aunts, and I all have confirmed narcolepsy.

    My mom and sister likely do too.

  44. It's actually an autoimmune disorder that affects your neurological system. Which I'm hoping means there'll be more to be done for my narcolepsy because I'm tired of having it.

  45. I have this… my sleep paralysis isnt scary and i am aware of my dreams and i control them sometes my own dreams wake me up rapidly sometimes before falling asleep i will hear voices of a malle and female talking to eachother random words lol

  46. There’s no way I don’t have this some of the symptoms I had more as a child like sleep paralysis and halusantion nowadays I’m just constantly tired and this helped a lot on knowing what I got I’m gonna see a doctor very soon to help deal with it

  47. Not sure of my issue but I struggle with fighting an undescribably strong urge to sleep during the first 4 hrs of work and I'm on my feet on into the day. I'll actually start experiencing that beggining of dream state while awake but its more just confusional arousal. If I am fresh and heavily interested I'll remain awake but if its mundane, repetative, and easy, I risk nodding off standing.

  48. I have type 1 narcolepsy and my father was a veteran of the First World War. I was born in 1941 and always remember my father as being sick. It is possible he died of flu because my family received support benefits. I came down with symptons after an operation on my leg. I was in the hospital for about 3 months. Do you think there is a relationship?

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