Narcolepsy… What’s that?

by julie on November 17, 2009

When I tell people I have narcolepsy, I generally get the same response: “So you can fall asleep in the middle of a conversation?”

For the record, I’ve fallen asleep in a lot of strange places but I’m fairly certain I’ve never fallen asleep in the middle of a conversation. (Correct me if I’m wrong!) However, in all fairness, this is what I thought narcolepsy meant too, before I got it…

So, if narcolepsy isn’t what we think it was, then what is it exactly? Here’s my briefest of brief summary:

Narcolepsy is neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to properly regulate the sleep/wake cycle. The two most debilitating symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. A person with narcolepsy experiences episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness comparable to how a normal person would feel after staying awake for 48 to 72 hours straight.

Cataplexy is a form of temporary muscle paralysis completely unique to narcolepsy. Cataplexy varies in intensity; a person with severe cataplexy may collapse to the ground, unable to move or speak for a few seconds to a few minutes.

Society correctly associates narcolepsy with sleepiness, however this sleepiness is generally perceived as harmless or humorous. In reality, narcolepsy is a serious chronic disorder that can severely impact personal and professional lives. Studies indicate that narcolepsy’s affect upon quality-of-life is comparable to epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

For more complete information about narcolepsy, please visit the following websites: Narcolepsy Network, and Stanford Center for Narcolepsy.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

AD217 December 8, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Hey Julie!

Just stopped by and read through your blog. I applaud your efforts! I think this is really great 🙂 Hope all is well with you since the end of law school/the bar.

Talk soon,
Aliki

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Gurney Halleck December 26, 2010 at 1:30 am

Great brief summaries!! I also like the insight that society generally perceives excessive daytime sleepiness as harmless or funny. When it happens to you, it is anything but funny.

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Lexi Kellam October 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

Great piece of writing aside from the insightful description! As the mother of a Narcoleptic Cataplectic, I have learned the elements of these conditions from the sidelines….It’s difficult to be a loving spectator, too !

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julie October 30, 2012 at 1:03 am

Thank you so much for your comment, Lexi. I imagine it’s very difficult from the point of view of a loving spectator. Thank you so much for supporting your child with narcolepsy and cataplexy. Your support is a gift to our whole community.

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