I wonder if I have narcolepsy

This is truly going to be a message posted around midnight, so I’ll categorize it as so. Quick overview of the day. I woke up just in time for self-defense class. I worked on math stuff until my math discussion, and then my EE 201 lecture with Puvvada. I fell asleep in his class, though I wasn’t the only one. That was followed by CS 105, where Crowley got angry at us for creating bad designs on our last midterm. I went to the Technopreneurs’ second meeting, which was quite unstructured, but I showed off Wall Posting.

I was reading some quotes on the Avery website (which are very funny by the way), when the stumbled into the word narcolepsy. Surprisingly, I didn’t really know what it was, so I searched for it on Google. This quickly brought me to the Wikipedia article on narcolepsy, where I learned that: “A person with narcolepsy is likely to become drowsy or to fall asleep, often at inappropriate times and places. Daytime naps may occur with or without warning and may be irresistible. These naps can occur several times a day. They are typically refreshing, but only for a few hours.”

That sounds like me. I can’t help falling asleep in class sometimes, unless maybe I somehow get the motivation to be actively engaged and shout stuff out. What struck me most, though, were these tips:

“Doctors generally agree that lifestyle changes can be very helpful to those suffering with narcolepsy. Suggested self-care tips, from the National Sleep Foundation, University at Buffalo, and Mayo Clinic, include:

  1. Take several short daily naps (10-15 minutes) to combat excessive sleepiness and sleep attacks.
  2. Develop a routine sleep schedule – try to go to sleep and awaken at the same time every day.
  3. Alert your employers, coworkers and friends in the hope that others will accommodate your condition and help when needed.
  4. Do not drive or operate dangerous equipment if you are sleepy. Take a nap before driving if possible. Consider taking a break for a nap during a long driving trip.
  5. Join a support group.
  6. Break up larger tasks into small pieces and focusing on one small thing at a time.
  7. Stand whenever possible.
  8. Take several short walks during the day.
  9. Carry a tape recorder, if possible, to record important conversations and meetings.”

(These are bullet points in the Wikipedia article, but I numbered them here so I can refer to them.) Of these 9 tips, I already practice numbers 6, 7, and 8. I occassionally practice 1, 2, and 4. And I want to do 3, 5, and 9. Well, not really all of those. But I wanted to cover all nine tips :) #9 I really want to do. Nobody in the modern age uses tape recorders, though. Either I use my laptop, or I pick up a digital recorder. But using it requires the professor’s permission, right? It would seem awkward, I think. Nobody else records their lectures.

But if I have narcolepsy, my roommate has it worse. He said he was going to stay up late tonight, but he’s already sleeping. Like a baby. A big baby. Just kidding.

6 Responses to “I wonder if I have narcolepsy”

  1. William says:

    I once thought I had narcolepsy too, just from the symptoms you stated. Then I saw this TV show (I think it was Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) where someone really had narcolepsy. They said that it rarely is the falling asleep while drinking soup with your head falling in the soup (as commonly portrayed). Instead, it usually starts with paralysis (while still conscious). This page (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/narcolepsy/narcolepsy.htm) has more information.

  2. Michael says:

    It’s my understanding that those who suffer from narcolepsy will drop to quickly with no control. It’s a neurological problem. Most likely you just get bored easily. Droning lectures, speeches and sermon will often cause me to dooze off.

    Reading related materials; doing other activity will help. At the speed the other party is talking and sparse level of content, I can multi-task something else without missing much. It’s one of the reasons I prefer written materials (over lectures) that I can speed-read and be done with it.

    If I have to listen, I’ve learned to apply pressure to the back of my hand (dig in with a finger nail – to the point of pain).

    Get adequate rest, keep your mind active – in spite of the slow speed of your environment and you’ll be fine.

    • Melissa says:

      Though this is more than a year after the original post, I stumbled across it while googling a few things about narcolepsy. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy about a year ago now, and would just like to point out a few things that I found through research and my own experience that go against the more popular assumptions about narcolepsy.

      First, “Its my understanding that those who suffer from narcolepsy will drop to quickly with no control.” That’s what I believed as well and is the media’s comedic play on the condition. A narcoleptic in a TV show or movie will just drop like a rock with no warning. While that can happen, most times a person with narcolepsy CAN fight the urge to sleep – for a bit. Sleep will eventually be unavoidable. In my case, I have a 1.5 hour drive to visit my parents/relatives. Prior to being diagnosed, I assumed I just had eye strain, and would stop 3-4 times each trip to “rest my eyes.” While driving, I knew it would be dangerous (duh) to fall asleep, so I would force it off for as long as possible, and then pull over at the nearest gas station and take a nap. Three or four times. Over the course of less than two hours.

      Second, boredom does matter. That’s not to say that every person who’s ever fallen asleep in a lecture is narcoleptic, but take a straight-A student with a keen interest in her studies, add a full nights rest and mediocre (but not awful) college diet, and it should not result in uncontrollable sleepiness in every class. I would actually leave the classes crying when I knew I could no longer control it, and go sleep on a bench outside. I hated the kids who slept in class. I also didn’t know I had narcolepsy at the time, so it turned into being angry at myself, and eventually dropping out of school entirely – but that’s another story. It took a year and a half after dropping out to be referred to a sleep specialist, something I never would have thought was the root of my problems. But, now I hold a full time job, a part time job from home, spend time with my friends (without falling asleep when we’re “hanging out”, which always kind of perturbed them as they assumed I was showing extreme disinterest), and drive long distances to visit relatives without fear of dozing off.

      Best of luck to anyone with sleep issues. My insurance completely covered the sleep studies necessary to determine what was causing my problems (it was initially assumed to be sleep apnea, and w/o insurance the studies would have cost ~$3-4000), and while they’re time consuming, they are WELL worth it if your sleep patterns are ruining your life and you’ve already done everything a normal person can on their own.

  3. Luke says:

    It could be other things making you tired. My thyroid shut down while I was in school and I had to go through some testing and then start work on a thyroid replacement therapy (basically I get to take about 75mg of cow thyroid every 12 hours). That caused all sorts of problems that looked like other things.

    Secondly, last year (I was 23) I was having severe problems staying awake, let alone aware. Finally I went to a doctor to have myself checked out. Turns out I have sleep apnea and my body was getting a few minutes of solid rest be hour of sleep. So I was fatigued all the time and would sleep the moment I stopped being physically active. My little brother (age 20) has sleep apnea as well (he’s 6’3″, 210lbs, and is extremely athletic) except his case is very mild, but something he will have to watch out for in the future.

    What I’m getting at is that you could have other “minor” problems that are accumulating under the stresses of school and social life that will be difficult to determine until you can live on a “normal” schedule or until you have the time and energy into seeing if your sleep issues actually fit the symptoms of other things.

  4. Alisha says:

    Michael

    you are incorrect. I have narcolepsy. There are two types of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy with cataplexy and narcolepsy without cataplexy. I have narcolepsy without cataplexy. I do experience sleep paralysis where I lose muscle control as I slowly begin to wake up at times (which is very scary), but you do not have to have to cataplexy to have narcolepsy. Narcolepsy consists of excessive daytime sleepiness, though one has aquired enough sleep.

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