This post contains referral/affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please refer to my affiliate disclosure policy.
Narcolepsy. Shit. That sounds serious. What is narcolepsy?
Those are the first thoughts of a person recently diagnosed with narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder. You may have found this page because you are asking the same question: what is narcolepsy? Basically, your brain cannot control sleep-wake cycles which results in excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy. So yeah, namaste in bed.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Nap Time!
I can remember back to high school and falling asleep during an algebra test. Who falls asleep during tests? Busy high schoolers? I’m not sure, but I didn’t think anything about it then. But, I also fell asleep during my English class when we watched a movie and during reading seminar when I was reading in the floor. Whoops. I now wonder how much better my grades could have been if I was awake the entire time… (although, I was already an A honor roll student.)
After years of nodding off after a full night’s sleep, I finally googled my symptoms. Was something wrong with me? I was not sure, but I do remember Travis telling me that it wasn’t normal to sleep 8-10 hours over night and be sleepy within an hour or two of waking up. For some reason, that was the lightbulb moment and I finally started seeking medical help.
Following a few months of my primary care physician “not believing” that I had narcolepsy, I decided to find a neurologist that would take me without a referring doctor. After a sleep study, it was confirmed that I had narcolepsy. My doctor told me it typically takes a person 10 years to finally diagnosed with narcolepsy. Which makes sense considering that many people are still unaware of the signs and symptoms of this disorder.
What is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy for me is not just falling over into a dead sleep, although for some people it can be an immediate sleep, and I do not have cataplexy. I’m just always sleepy, unless I take my medicine, and even then, I don’t feel 100%. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if I’ve had 10 hours of sleep and a two hour nap, I can still SLEEP! It’s not just my body craving sleep, it’s my brain that’s unable to regulate the chemical that controls the sleep-wake cycle. I can fall asleep during a presentation and immediately start dreaming. Yep, it’s weird. And, I’ll even remember that dream because my dreams are super vivid.
Excessive daytime sleepiness can cause a lot of problems, so it’s important to make sure you manage it with medicine, getting into a routine, and maintaining a healthy body through eating and exercising. Did you know that there is no cure for narcolepsy? It’s a chronic disorder that impacts approximately 1 in 2,000 people according to the Narcolepsy Network.
Somewhere I read that a normal person would have to stay awake for three days straight (THREE DAYS!!) to experience what a person with narcolepsy feels like on a daily basis. I wish I was making up the fact that I’m always sleepy, but I’m not. Like everyone else, I do enjoy a good nap, but I wish I didn’t want or need to nap all. the. time.
I plan to share more about my narcolepsy story over the next few weeks, so please check back for more! If you want to keep up with my posts, please subscribe!
Do you have narcolepsy? Do you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness? Know someone who does? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.