exhausted woman sitting at her work deskIt’s perfectly natural to be tired at the end of the day or feel drowsy in the afternoon after your coffee has worn off. But for those who have fragmented sleep, the level of tiredness is different. Daytime sleepiness takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that you’ve fallen asleep at the drop of a hat, regardless of what you’re doing. You could be working at your computer, sitting at the breakroom table, driving your kids home from soccer practice, or even operating machinery at work and still falling asleep. But what does this mean? Why can you ‘sleep’ all night long and still feel this tired?

Two sleep disorders that could be the cause are sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Both are dangerous conditions that reap havoc on your body and can cause injury in others’ lives. Use this as a guide on sleep apnea and narcolepsy. 

What is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological condition that tricks your brain’s sleep-wake cycle. People with narcolepsy could fall asleep at any moment, regardless of what they are doing, because of this brain confusion. Researchers continue to gather more evidence about how narcolepsy works, but the proof of it being an autoimmune disorder is piling up. It’s not understood why, but the body destroys specific brain cells, producing peptide hypocretin. Hypocretin impacts sleep, arousal, appetite, and energy expenditure. While an amount of these peptides are good, in those with narcolepsy, these peptides send faulty messages to the brain. 

Narcolepsy is a rare condition that affects only 1 in 2000 people, but researchers believe the number is understated due to people going undiagnosed. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep-breathing disorder where you stop breathing at night, sometimes hundreds of times. Your breathing pauses can last anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute or longer before your brain awakens you to resume breathing. There are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive is the most common, and it’s caused by a physical blockage in your airways such as throat tissue, tongue, or nasal blockage. Central sleep apnea is far less common and is a neurological condition where your brain fails to tell your lungs to breathe. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the two. 

Sleep apnea is far more common than narcolepsy, and even still, researchers predict that sleep apnea goes undiagnosed 80% of the time. 

Two Distinct Sleep Disorders with Overlapping Symptoms

These two sleep disorders are very different. They are caused by different things and work differently inside your body, but they cause some overlapping symptoms, making them hard to diagnose. Those who suffer from sleep apnea or narcolepsy can be misdiagnosed because the symptoms are similar to many other disorders and conditions.

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Fragmented sleep throughout the night
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Unusual dreams
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Social isolation
  • Cognitive disabilities such as confusion and poor memory
  • Irritability

Unique Symptoms

While many symptoms are shared, some are unique to sleep apnea or narcolepsy.


  • Cataplexy – the sudden loss of muscle tone
  • Hallucinations
  • Automatic behavior while sleeping – narcoleptics could fall asleep while talking and continue to speak with no awareness of what they’re doing.

Sleep Apnea

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping for air during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a dry throat
  • Nighttime sweats

Do I have Sleep Apnea or Narcolepsy?

Judging purely by how common sleep apnea is compared to narcolepsy, there is a good chance it is the former, but the only way you can know for sure is to get a sleep test. In Miami Beach, people choose to head to their sleep dentist to get recommendations on sleep testing. After your sleep test, you’ll better understand where you need to go for treatment.

Treat Your Sleep Apnea in Miami Beach

Head to your Miami Beach sleep dentist at SoBe Dentist if you have sleep apnea. Dr. Maria Escoto and Dr. Alberto Mantovani can help you get the sleep apnea treatment you need with non-invasive sleep apnea treatment. You can sleep comfortably and treat your sleep apnea at the same time. Call (305) 535-2225 or make an appointment online today.