Many people will be familiar at least with the concept of narcolepsy as it has frequently been referred to for comical effect in films and stories. The common image is that of a person in mid-conversation who suddenly drops to the ground going from a state of total alertness to complete sleep. The person concerned then wakes without realizing that he or she has been sleeping and carries on with their conversation.
Unsurprisingly, narcolepsy is not always as it is shown in the films. Although in a few extremely rare instances of this sleep disorder people do fall asleep without any warning, the majority of people with narcolepsy have difficulties with overwhelming sleepiness during the day and occasionally have to give in to the need for a nap.
Like other conditions there are varying degrees of narcolepsy. Some people for example might merely have a problem with getting extremely sleepy during the day while other people might have a wide variety of problems which all indicate narcolepsy.
One example of narcolepsy is falling asleep while you are engaged in conversation or working and not even appearing asleep to others around you. Although other people might think that you are allowing your mind to wander or you might begin to believe that you are suffering from memory problems because you do not remember things people tell you, the simple fact is that you are really sleeping during these interactions. You just do not look as if you are sleeping because your eyes remain open and the people around you cannot tell that you are sleeping.
Other interesting characteristics of some rarer types of narcolepsy include hallucinations and paralysis. Experiencing hallucinations when waking up can be a sign of narcolepsy but it is not an absolute indicator although people with severe narcolepsy may well find themselves experiencing scary and dramatic hallucinations as a result of this rare sleep disorder. Sleep paralysis is in fact relatively common and our bodies are in essence ‘paralyzed’ during sleep so that we cannot act out our dreams. But for individuals suffering from narcolepsy the paralysis goes beyond the normal sleep paralysis and a narcoleptic person might be completely paralyzed upon waking up but be aware of the situation and therefore understandably terrified.
Naturally there is medication that is designed to help people who have varying degrees of narcolepsy and medication is usually quite effective in assisting people to keep awake during daylight hours and then to get a full night of sleep.
Some people find that they do not get on with medication because the stimulant effect which is designed to help them to stay awake during the day makes them feel jittery or nervous. In the real world is a trade-off for a few narcoleptics who must either continue to suffer erratic sleep or solve their sleeping difficulties and live with the side-effects of the medication.
Some narcoleptics do not have a choice however because for them the desire to sleep during the day is so great that they wind up falling asleep while driving or at other obviously dangerous times. In these luckily rare instances medication is quite literally a life-saver.