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Hard to Stay Awake? - You May Have Narcolepsy!

Updated on February 2, 2010
A person with narcolepsy may find it difficult to stay awake!
A person with narcolepsy may find it difficult to stay awake!

In the HUB "Sleep Disorders – A Serious Issue" I discussed sleep disorders and the importance of visiting a doctor for an actual diagnosis. Well this HUB, my friends, is about the symptoms that one experiences when dealing with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy afflicts 1 in 2,000 Americans and in all honesty, is no laughing matter. Many people that suffer with narcolepsy live a long time without being properly diagnosed as many "family" physicians are not sufficiently trained to deal with such a condition. In fact, for years, narcolepsy was treated as a "mental health issue" and not a medical disorder (which it actually is). Even though narcolepsy still throws many physicians for a loop, more and more people are getting treated for this interesting condition and are actually receiving the proper treatment and care.

Narcolepsy - NOT a Psychological Disorder!

When people hear the word narcolepsy, they automatically think of a person instantaneously falling asleep….usually during the most inopportune times. It is important to note that narcolepsy isn't related to poor sleep habits or a psychological disorder. Narcolepsy, in fact, occurs when the brain cannot properly regulate normal "sleep/wake" cycles. People that have narcolepsy experience "drowsy periods" throughout the day and often fall asleep at odd times (for example, at a party, work, or even the gym). These "drowsy periods" are also called "sleep attacks." A person with a severe case of narcolepsy can suffer from "sleep attacks" several times per day and often find it difficult to get through daily activities. Though there is no cure for narcolepsy, there are ways to treat it…thank goodness!

Not so long ago, people with narcolepsy were misdiagnosed and considered either lazy or possessed! Some scholars believe that individuals mentioned in the bible as being "filled with demons" actually suffered from either narcolepsy or epilepsy. Thank goodness we (as a people) have advanced! Though narcolepsy still remains a mystery in many ways, what is known for certain is that this condition disrupts the mechanism in the brain that coordinates the various "sleep states" that a person experiences.

Extreme Daytime Sleepiness!

Though this condition is not considered to be hereditary, it is interesting to note that if an individual has narcolepsy, then most likely…someone else in their family (either past or present) also suffers (or suffered) from this condition. Researchers believe that head trauma and hormonal changes may also play a role.

When it comes to narcolepsy, the most common symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness. In fact, the urge to sleep is so strong, it wreaks havoc on a person's life and can cause great distress. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) can create the following complications:

  • Inability to stay alert when in a rested state (such as simply sitting in a chair)
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sleep attacks (when a person suddenly falls asleep at an inopportune time)
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty remembering things


Extreme Fatigue

In order to be treated for narcolepsy it is VERY important that a person be diagnosed correctly! Doctor's often confuse narcolepsy with other conditions such as depression, sleep apnea and insomnia. If you believe that you have narcolepsy, mention it to your doctor. Even if you don't have this condition it can't hurt to "throw it out there." As always, make a list of your symptoms and write down any questions that you may have BEFORE your appointment. As I mentioned before, if you have narcolepsy it is extremely important that you be diagnosed QUICKLY so that the proper treatment program can be assigned. Good luck and here's to staying awake!

For more information about sleep disorders signs and symptoms...please visit the Sleep Disorders Signs and Symptoms Blog! Good Luck!


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      Kate 2 years ago

      I also suspect to have this nacorlepsy I find it very hard to stay awake @ work I sometimes fall asleep while having convesations with people. Even right now as im typing this massage im feeling drowzie at work

    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 6 years ago from Maryland

      Meh: Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could just quit their jobs and take naps instead!

    • profile image

      Meh 6 years ago

      The only advice I could give, would be to quit your job, and see how your days are going then... you might be pleasantly surprised.

    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 8 years ago from Maryland

      kyteflyer: Sorry to hear about your sounds awful! I sincerely wish you the best. Maybe you should go to a different doctor and get a second opinion. Good luck.

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      kyteflyer 8 years ago

      I have diagnosed OSA which has been in treatment for a number of years, but it has only gone a short way to fixing the problem. Its enabled me to stay awake long enough to get done what I need to at work, but after 1-2pm I get so "zombied" (without medication) that I can't function at all. I believe its possible to have both OSA and narcolepsy, but my docs wont consider it. I've been reduced to self-medicating with modafinil which is also only partially effective. I can get home from work safely, at least. Its a horrible thing to have, because you feel like you only have a fraction of a life.

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      Ramiro Garcia 8 years ago

      I know I have this condition (narcolepsy) and this has cause my relationship in both marriages. There were many times I fell asleep or black out while driving. Sometime I think I am depress but I am just trying to stay awake and look sad or upset and throws my sleeping times off.