Are You Awake?
Living with Narcolepsy
People think I'm lazy and sometimes rude. Or just don't care. I can see how they would get that impression from just looking at me. But people shouldn't be judged only on first appearances. I wish it was that easy to explain, but it's not. I have a sleeping disorder called narcolepsy. It's challenging to live with and has no cure at this time (Dement and Vaughan 205). Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. It is only diagnosed in one out of 2000 Americans (National Sleep Foundation). The main symptom is excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness. When I am supposed to be awake, my brain tells me I'm tired. Even after adequate nighttime sleep, I still find myself falling asleep at inappropriate times and places. Some people also experience hallucinations, sleep paralysis, cataplexy--a sudden loss of muscle control, or automatic behaviors performed without full awareness (NSF). Narcolepsy can occur at any age, but is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25. Patients find that the symptoms tend to get worse over the next two to three decades following the first symptoms. There is strong evidence that narcolepsy may run in families; 8 to 12 percent of people with narcolepsy have a close relative with the disease (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute). It is slightly more common in men than in women. Since there is no cure for narcolepsy, doctors can only treat the symptoms at this time. With proper medication, most narcoleptics are able to achieve 80% or more of their potential alertness (NSF). Changes in behavior to encourage nighttime sleep, such as regular exercise, avoiding caffeine, and scheduled naps, are important too. Narcolepsy causes many problems in daily life. Learning is often challenging. The undiagnosed narcoleptic child is often diagnosed with behavioral problems such as...
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