Skin and Body Temperature and Narcolepsy
Last updated: April 2023
Narcolepsy can be a difficult condition where people experience both daytime and nighttime symptoms connected to waking up and falling asleep.
Daytime symptoms can include excessive sleepiness and sudden muscle weakness or losing the ability to move parts of the body. Nighttime symptoms commonly include having trouble falling or staying asleep, along with hallucinations or losing the ability to move parts of the body while trying to fall asleep.1
You may not know that there is a connection between skin and body temperature and sleep and wake cycles. For example, in healthy people, skin temperature tends to be low during waking, while body temperature tends to be high. And when falling asleep, skin temperature tends to go up, while body temperature goes down.1
Could it be possible that skin and body temperature are also connected to sleep-wake cycles for people with narcolepsy?
Skin temperature and narcolepsy
People with narcolepsy often have different skin and body temperatures from what is considered to be normal during sleep and wake cycles. Since doctors know that people with narcolepsy already experience problems with sleeping and waking, some now think that this may be why they have different skin and body temperatures compared to people without narcolepsy.2
In one study, researchers found that people with narcolepsy not only have unusual body temperature during sleep-wake cycles but that they also experience increased skin temperature while awake.3
Could skin temperature be connected to daytime symptoms?
There is already an established connection between sleep-wake cycles and skin temperature. And doctors now know that people with narcolepsy have raised skin temperatures compared with healthy people during the day. This may mean that the increased skin temperature could be the reason that people with narcolepsy experience the daytime symptoms that they do.
In fact, in a 2016 study, researchers found that people who experienced daytime sleepiness and daytime sleep cycles also experienced increased daytime skin temperature. And not only that, doctors saw a direct connection between skin temperature and sleep attacks. Sleep attacks—which is when extreme sleepiness occurs or periods of falling asleep suddenly during the day—came directly after a measured spike in skin temperature.2
Could this information affect treatment?
When looking at the connection between skin temperature and narcolepsy symptoms, doctors also examined the connection between skin temperature, narcolepsy symptoms, and treatments for these symptoms.
One treatment, Xyrem (sodium oxybate), is a medicine in the hypnotic class. It is prescribed to treat nighttime sleeplessness in people with narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. Hypnotics are medications that help people fall asleep. Sodium oxybate affects skin temperature. This could mean that this drug helps people fall asleep because of its ability to regulate body temperature. This information could help people with narcolepsy who have both daytime and nighttime symptoms.1
These latest discoveries about narcolepsy are exciting and may impact future research and treatment developments. More research is needed, but the findings shed some necessary light into narcolepsy and its effect on people’s lives.
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