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Narcolepsy a Life Threatening Sleep Disorder

  • Published: 2009-01-19 (Revised/Updated 2014-03-14) : Author: Donald Saunders
  • Synopsis: Rarer forms of narcolepsy include brief periods of paralysis and hallucinations where people can fall asleep while driving creating life threatening situations.

Main Document

"You simply do not look as if you are asleep because your eyes remain open and those around you are unable to tell that you are sleeping."

For some people suffering from narcolepsy the paralysis extends beyond the normal sleep paralysis and a narcoleptic individual may be completely paralyzed on waking - yet be aware of the situation and therefore understandably terrified.

A lot of people will be familiar with Narcolepsy since it has frequently been referred to for comical effect in stories and films.

The common image is that of a person in mid-conversation who suddenly falls to the ground going from a state of total alertness to complete sleep. The person then awakens without realizing that he has been asleep and continues on with their conversation.

Unsurprisingly, narcolepsy is not generally as it is shown on the screen. Although in some extremely rare instances of this sleep disorder people do fall asleep with no warning whatsoever, most people with narcolepsy have difficulties with overwhelming sleepiness during the day and sometimes have to give in to the need for a nap.

Just like other conditions there are different degrees of narcolepsy. Some people for example might merely have a problem with becoming excessively sleepy during the day while other people might have a wide variety of problems that all point to narcolepsy.

One example is sleeping while you are engaged in conversation or working and not even appearing to be asleep to others around you. While other people may think that your mind is merely wandering or you might begin to think that you are suffering from memory problems because you do not remember things people tell you, the fact is that you are really sleeping during your interactions. You simply do not look as if you are asleep because your eyes remain open and those around you are unable to tell that you are sleeping.

Other characteristics of some rarer forms of narcolepsy include brief periods of paralysis and hallucinations. Having hallucinations when waking up might be a sign of narcolepsy but it is not an absolute indicator although people with severe narcolepsy could well find themselves experiencing dramatic and scary hallucinations because of this fairly rare sleep disorder. Sleep paralysis is actually reasonably common and our bodies are in essence 'paralyzed' while we sleep so that we cannot act out our dreams. But for people suffering from narcolepsy the paralysis extends beyond the normal sleep paralysis and a narcoleptic individual may be completely paralyzed on waking yet be aware of the situation and therefore understandably terrified.

Of course there is medication which is designed to assist people who have varying degrees of narcolepsy and medication can usually be fairly effective in assisting people to stay awake during daylight hours and then to enjoy a full night of sleep.

Some people find a problem with medication because the stimulant effect that is designed to keep them awake during the day also makes them feel nervous or jittery. In reality it is a trade-off for some narcoleptics who must either continue to have erratic and insufficient sleep or solve their sleeping problems and live with the side-effects of the medication.

However, some narcoleptics have no choice because the desire to sleep during the day is so powerful that they end up falling asleep while at the wheel of a car or at other dangerous times. In these luckily rare instances medication can be a life-saver.

Reference: Help-Me-To-Sleep.com provides information on a range of sleeping problems including narcolepsy and looks at such things as narcolepsy symptoms, treatment and medication.

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