I’ve briefly mentioned in the past that I suffer from a light case of Narcolepsy. Yes, that condition where you see on TV the character just falls asleep in the mashed potatoes.
However, Narcolepsy is very different than how media portrays it and it differs from person to person.
Suddenly Sleepy Saturday
The second Saturday of March is Suddenly Sleepy Saturday, a day promoted by the Narcolepsy Network to spread awareness about Narcolepsy.
Since today happens to be Suddenly Sleepy Saturday, I thought I’d give you a little more information as to what exactly is Narcolepsy and what it really looks like.
What is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder in which there is an irregular pattern in REM sleep and a major discord between the normal sleep/wake cycle.
Narcolepsy can occur in childhood but often develops in young adulthood. The symptoms vary between individual and type of narcolepsy, making it hard to diagnose.
The media often portrays narcolepsy as cataplexy narcolepsy. This is the most severe case of narcolepsy but it doesn’t appear in all patients. Around a third will not have cataplexy.
Individuals with cataplexy narcolepsy have involuntary attacks of sleep that can last for seconds or several minutes. These attacks are often brought on by emotional responses.
Excessive Sleepiness (ES)
Is another form of Narcolepsy, one which I suffer from. ES is caused by the irregular sleep patterns and can cause daytime sleepiness.
We aren’t just talking about , “gee I could use a nap” , we are talking about fighting to keep your eyes open.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke , people with ES describe it as a persistent sense of mental cloudiness, a lack of energy, a depressed mood, or extreme exhaustion. People with ES will awaken from unavoidable sleeps (or what we might call a power nap) feeling refreshed and finding that their drowsiness and fatigue subsides for an hour or two.
Who has Narcolepsy?
According to the Narcolepsy Network approximately 3 million people worldwide suffer from narcolepsy. Given the world’s population that’s a relatively small number making it an ”orphan disease” this means it a disease that affects less than 5 per 10,000 people within a community
It is also hard to say how many people actually have narcolepsy since so many are misdiagnosed as just being tired. I was in my early twenties when I got diagnosed and it was only after a few years of telling doctors that I was always tired. Finally one doctor suggested I do a sleep study and only then was I diagnosed with narcolepsy.
Treatment for Narcolepsy
Currently there is no cure for Narcolepsy and since it affects such a small portion of the population there isn’t a lot of current studies on narcolepsy being done.
There are drugs that can be prescribed for narcoleptics that help keep them stimulated and awake.
Many narcoleptics suffer from vitamin D deficiency and are often put on a vitamin regiment. For me specifically I put on the highest dosage of vitamin D plus a B complex.
If the sleep attacks are not too severe and if possible, your doctor might just suggest that you take a nap(s) throughout the day. This isn’t always practical, but I try to take a few minutes at lunch to close my eyes. I also take a good 30 minute nap when I get home right after work.
I hope I’ve given you some information about narcolepsy and what it is.
The Narcolepsy Network is working to bring more awareness with Suddenly Sleepy Saturday. You can help Raise Awareness By Requesting a Suddenly Sleepy Saturday 2016 Proclamation in Your State or Hometown!
Dear Akram, thank you for penning this excellent look at a far too often misunderstood condition. I’m sincerely sorry that you’re affected by narcolepsy and really admire you for talking so frankly about it here on your blog. You’re such an inspiration!
Thank you Miss Jessica. I’m sure that there are far worse things I could have than narcolepsy, so I’ve learned to live with it. It is a little understood condition and growing up I was just labeled lazy but I’m glad I can help others better understand what narcolepsy really is like.