New treatments for sleep disorders could be created thanks to a pioneering new study into the causes of narcolepsy from scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the US.
A team of scientists identified a specific immune cell that is involved in the disorder, leading them to confirm that narcolepsy is actually an autoimmune disease.
It is hoped that the study, which was published in the journal Nature Genetics, will lead to the development of new treatments for the condition that can cause daytime drowsiness and disturbed sleep.
"The link between narcolepsy and autoimmunity was proposed decades ago, but efforts to verify it have failed repeatedly," said Dr Merrill Mitler, of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
"Current findings leave little doubt that autoimmunity plays a role."
Earlier this month, a report was published in the journal Sleep highlighting research from the National Taiwan University which identified a link between attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in childhood and sleep disorders later in life.