Almost everyone, it seems, has seen the youtube videos about the narcoleptic goats. They run around, and then midstride collapse as if they died, only to wake up just before or after they get a mouth full of dirt from the ground. It's so sad to watch, as you feel so helpless standing by and watching.
One of the scariest realizations is that this also happens to humans. During anytime of the day, people that suffer from narcolepsy may fall asleep instantly. The illness in and of itself is not deadly, however, the things that come with involuntarily falling asleep can be. For example, if somebody were to have an attack while driving or operating machinery the risk of death increases dramatically.
But what causes people to suddenly fall into a deep snooze? As it seems with many things, scientist still aren't sure what the cause of narcolepsy is, however scientist have taken steps to finding genes linked to the illness. Some also believe that the disease is caused by a deficiency in a protein called hypocretin. This protein is critical in the dream process, as it helps regulate the REM cycle. There is also evidence to believe that it is passed down genetically.
The symptoms of narcolepsy usually start to show between the ages of 15 and 25, and can include daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. During the day some people experience excessive sleepiness. And after waking up from a sleep attack, people may hallucinate or even experience a loss of speech and movement and motor control for a short period of time.
Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder that if left untreated can lead to potentially dangerous and fatal situations. There is currently no cure for the disease but there are steps that people can take to reduce the frequency of the attacks. At first glance a goat that trips over nothing and falls only to awake startled may be funny to some people, but the reality is that it's a harsh condition for anyone goat or human, and this is why we must continue researching this sleep disorder.
"What Is Narcolepsy, Symptoms & Causes - WebMD." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. WebMD. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.