Eyes Wide Shut
Very Interesting|November 2018
Eyes Wide Shut

Narcolepsy includes much more than falling asleep at inappropriate times

James Lloyd

Henry Nicholls is more qualified than most to write about the science of sleep. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with narcolepsy – a rare disorder that causes people to fall asleep without warning. And he says it’s a largely misunderstood condition.

What exactly is narcolepsy?

Most people know that those with narcolepsy have an irresistible need to sleep at inappropriate moments during the day. This was my first symptom when I was diagnosed – I’d find myself dozing through tutorials at university and overdosing on caffeine. But that’s probably the least interesting of the symptoms. Most people with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, which is where the emotional centre in the brain causes a sudden loss in muscle control. It’s the same process that happens during sleep to stop you acting out your dreams, but during the day, it can mean that even a small emotion has you collapsed on the floor.

What triggers it?

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November 2018