Did you know that in the United States 1 in 2000 people suffer with narcolepsy? To read this statistic I was shocked at how prevalent this sleep disorder really is. Most people have seen and laughed at the YouTube video of narcoleptic dogs... but what about the people that deal with narcolepsy on a daily basis? I began to wonder what like is really like for them.
The Lillienfeld text describes narcolepsy as "a dramatic sleep disorder that people experience episodes of sudden sleep." The main symptoms of narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. Cataplexy is the loss of muscle control and can be triggered by emotions such as laughing or crying. The HelpGuide website page on narcolepsy describes that other symptoms might include hallucinations, sleep paralysis, microsleep (brief sleep episode as you are performing daily tasks), nighttime wakefulness and rapid entry of REM sleep. The causes are not set in stone, but scientists do know that narcolepsy is related to the lack of a hormone, hypocretin, in the brain.
The symptoms listed above may make daily activites more difficult for a narcoleptic victim. I found this website called the Narcoleptic Network, which is a blog for narcoleptic victims to share their stories about their diagnoses and how narcolepsy affects their lives. I was reading a story about Tesa, who was diagnosed with narcolepsy when she was just 15 years old. A completely normal girl who was involved in several extracurricular activities and occasionally fell asleep in class. She started falling asleep uncontrollably and visited her sleep doctor who then realized she was losing muscle tone every time she fell asleep. Tesa continues her story saying that she had to drop a class in order to take naps during the school day so that she could stay awake for the remainder of the school day. Tesa's life then started to revolve around her narcolepsy. It is something she will take medication for the remainder of her life, describe on every job application and affect virtually every decision she will make. Narcolepsy is truly a hard disease to live with.