Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder. It most often displays during the ages of 15 to 30. The most common symptom is what is often called a sleep attack. It is identified by a sudden and extreme feeling of drowsiness and then a deep sleep that typically lasts about 15 minutes. There can be several attacks and have very little warning. They can happen in the middle of a conversation, while driving or often right after eating. There is no concrete warning, the victim is just very drowsy and then asleep.
The person with narcolepsy may also experience dreamlike hallucinations between wakefulness and sleep. Typically they will hear and see things that are not there. Less often their other senses will be involved as well. It is easy to see how narcolepsy could be very disruptive to a normal lifestyle. There are some famous people who have dealt with this disorder.
Jimmy Kimmel is a very visible and opinionated celebrity. His sarcasm and lack of respect of conventional rules have forced him to change jobs many times. However, narcolepsy has been fairly well handled by Kimmel. Rarely has it interfered with his professional life.
Aaron Flahavan was a very good professional goalkeeper. He played for the Portsmouth FC. This video clip clearly shows the dramatic effects that happen when someone suffers a sleep attack with narcolepsy. It is clear that Aaron was confused when he awakened and was unaware of what had happened.
Jaime Diaz wrote an exceptional article for Golf Digest that highlighted some of the challenges that Nicole Jeray battles with narcolepsy and golfing. Diaz noted that “During a competitive round, she’ll often be thrust into brief, instant sleep as often as 50 times.” Of course competitors were made aware of her situation and everyone did their best to help the pro golfer continue.
“Nicole is remarkable,” says Dr. Paul Fredrickson, co-director of the sleep-disorder center at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., who treated Jeray for two years beginning in 1997. “People with a severe condition like hers almost always have a difficult time achieving in life. It’s no accident that through history, there are almost no famous persons known to have suffered with severe narcolepsy. But Nicole is blessed with a personality, attitude and determination that have allowed her to survive in an extremely competitive field.”
This great politician learned to take things in stride. He did the same with his narcolepsy. Whatever the situation was he tried to make the best of it. He had this to say about his sleeping situation “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner… Take off your clothes and get into bed… You get two days in one. Well, at least one-and-a-half.”
This talented cyclists took medication so he could stave off the episodes while competing. The medication he used was called Modafinil, and was banned in 2004, so he could no longer compete. In 2009, he was able to compete again with a new medication.
Narcolepsy is not easy or fun. It can be life threatening. Be aware of those who have narcolepsy and offer support and help.