dealing with narcolepsy, wedding planning, a law degree and some new fitness goals…

Narcolepsy Shmarcolepsy

Ok, so.. chances are that you either just googled “what is narcolepsy?” or were about to.  Either that, or you’re thinking “Didn’t that girl on Duece Bigalow have narcolepsy, the one that fell asleep all the time?”.  This pretty much reflects the extent of most people’s understanding of what narcolepsy is.

Alternatively, you may have seen one of the recent documentaries on narcolepsy.  Although these documentaries are a great tool to raise awareness, for most people with narcolepsy, they don’t represent the daily reality.  I don’t fall asleep while walking around, I don’t fall to the ground in a heap without notice, my narcoleptic life isn’t very TV worthy…

Basically for me, each day getting out of bed is a total drag, and many tasks like driving a car, watching TV, reading a book, are fairly difficult things for me to do.  This is because narcoleptics don’t sleep the same way most people sleep.  You may be aware that there are 5 stages to your sleeping pattern.  The first 4 stages are non REM sleep.  They go something like this:

  • Stage 1 – reduction of activity, eyes closed, easily awakened sometimes you experience the “falling feeling” or muscle contraction;
  • Stage 2 – Light sleep, positive and negative waves with mixed periods of relaxation, heart rate slows, body temperature decreases;
  • Stage 3 & 4 – Deep sleep stages.  When awoken from these stages you may feel disoriented;

During the above stages, your body repairs itself and its immune system.

  • Stage 5 – REM sleep.  Heart rate and breathing increases, eyes move rapidly in different directions (REM = Rapid Eye Movement). Tests have shown that brainwave patterns in this stage are similar to wakefulness. Due to increased brain activity in this stage, it is also where you dream.  Paralysis occurs in most of the major muscle areas during this stage to prevent us from acting out our dreams.  Most adults spend about 20% of their night in the REM stage. (Source:

Most narcoleptics sleep for hours and hours and could pretty much nap whenever and wherever you asked them to.  The problem with our sleep is we go straight into the REM stage of our sleep.  So, basically, our sleep is exhausting.  We may be sleeping all the time, but we are nearly always dreaming.  We don’t get as much of that good “repairing” sleep that most people get.  So, even after 9 hours of solid sleep, we are exhausted.

Click here to find out what this means for me on a daily basis.


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