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Exploring New Paths in Narcolepsy

The ability to stay awake is critical for us to live healthy and productive lives. Individuals with sleep-wake disorders such as narcolepsy find their lives dramatically impacted day after day, and night after night.

Narcolepsy is a life-long, neurologic condition that is characterized by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep and wake cycles that impacts over 3 million people worldwide.1,2 There are two types of narcolepsy – type 1 and 2 – and they share many of the same symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness or EDS, sleep disruption, sleep attacks, sleep paralysis, and in some cases hallucinations upon falling asleep or waking up.3 In narcolepsy type 1, individuals also experience cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle tone that’s usually triggered by strong emotions.3,4  

Narcolepsy type 1 has been strongly linked to the loss of neurons in the brain that produce a neurotransmitter called orexin, which is also known as hypocretin. The link between orexin peptides and the control of wakefulness and sleep was discovered about 20 years ago – leading orexin to often be considered the master regulator of the sleep-wake cycle. Today, Takeda is researching orexin and its role in a broad spectrum of sleep-wake disorders that are characterized by EDS, including narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia and residual EDS in obstructive sleep apnea.

Takeda has been studying these sleep-wake disorders for several years, and we, like other researchers of these same disorders, recognize the potential unmet need for these individuals. That’s why we are committed to working to better understand the needs of individuals who live everyday with sleep-wake disorders, and we value the opportunity to raise awareness and to talk about the science behind these disorders.

“Our passion is to make a meaningful difference in improving people’s lives through new medicines, and we understand the importance of doing this in true partnership with organizations and the individuals who need them.” – Dr. Deborah Hartman, Vice President, Global Program Lead of Takeda’s Orexin Program

Recently, we were invited by one such advocacy organization, Wake Up Narcolepsy*, to join an episode of its weekly podcast: Narcolepsy 360. Claire Crisp, Executive Director of Wake Up Narcolepsy and Narcolepsy 360 host, welcomed Takeda’s Deborah Hartman, PhD., Global Program Lead, Neuroscience, to discuss the science behind narcolepsy, the discovery history of orexin and its role in sleep-wake disorders and the importance of clinical studies in the drug development process. Please visit here to listen to this episode and learn more.

*Takeda is corporate sponsor of Wake Up Narcolepsy


  1. Guilleminault C, and Brooks SN. Excessive daytime sleepiness: A challenge for the practising neurologist. Brain. 2001;124(8):1482-1491
  2. United Nations Population Fund. World Population Dashboard. https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboard. Accessed July 16, 2020.
  3. Nishino S. Clinical and neurobiological aspects of narcolepsy. Sleep Medicine. 2007;8(4):373-399
  4. Mahoney CE, Cogswell A, Koralnik IJ, Scammell TE. The neurobiological basis of narcolepsy. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2019;20(2):83-93