I can’t control my sleep

A person with narcolepsy has many challenges to face on a daily basis. Some of the symptoms are truly bizarre, apart from the daily sleepiness and ‘brain fog’ you also have sleep paralysis, strange dreams – which can range on the spectrum from being fantastical – weird – lucid dreams to hallucinations and nightmares. Below describes some of these symptoms that affect narcoleptics in varying degrees of severity.

1. Fragmented Sleep

 People with narcolepsy don’t actually need any more sleep more than the average person, the problem is the quality of their night-time sleep is very different.
sleeping-narcolepsy-sleep attack

2. Falling Asleep Unwillingly

People with narcolepsy can’t control when they sleep. If you imagine a faulty light switch that flickers on and off randomly, that is narcolepsy – you don’t even have to be tired – a sleep attack can last a few seconds or one may feel the need to lie down and sleep for a short period (we are masters of the ‘cat nap!’). Late nights and being tired, does make it worse. Imagine you have stayed up all night and you have to function as normal the next day. The struggle to carry out you daily routine becomes just that – a struggle ….. that’s what it is like every day for someone living with narcolepsy

One of the key symptoms that doctors look at is how fast you fall asleep. For example, if you are forced to find a nearby park bench on which to nap, or if you fall asleep while driving.

 

3. Hallucinations

People with narcolepsy have crazy dreams. These dreams can be hallucinations during a sleep “attack.” Having nightmares does not mean that you might have narcolepsy. Sometimes these experiences can happen when you are having a short sleep attack in the middle of the day. Referred to as “hypnogagic” when someone is falling asleep and “hypnopomipic” when they’re waking up, it is a very strange experience and can be very scary.

4. Sleep Paralysis

 Although it’s not unique to the disorder, sleep paralysis is actually a common symptom of narcolepsy. During REM sleep, the body’s muscles are relaxed to the point of paralysis — it’s perfectly normal, but when someone is abruptly awakened, they may temporarily find themselves unable to move. This is a very frightening experience when you are actually dreaming but also awake. Watch Julie Flygare’s video on the home page. She describes her experience of sleep paralysis brilliantly. Everyone with narcolepsy is different and symptoms and experiences vary, but her video will give you a good guideline of what sleep paralysis is like to experience.

5. Cataplexy

 Cataplexy occurs in almost half of people with narcolepsy. It is characterised  by a sudden, temporary loss of muscle tone, but their causes are entirely different. Cataplexy occurs when someone is awake, and it’s triggered by strong, usually positive emotions like laughter. It can feel like you have fainted, but you can hear everything and some people can see, but you can’t move. It can be just a very mild symptom, where your arms and legs go a bit wobbly when you start to laugh, for example.

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