Monday, July 26

Narcolepsy's Close Personal Friends - The Sleep Disturbances

As if Narcolepsy wasn't bad enough, it usually doesn't travel alone. It likes to gang up on its victim with it's thug buddies: cataplexy, sleep apnea, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations. They make quite an effective team.
My husband suffers from the entire group.
  • The definition: Cataplexy is an abrupt loss of muscle tone, usually triggered by a strong emotion.
  • His experience: If my husband laughs too hard or gets too emotional, he'll literally fall to the floor, unable to move for several minutes. You know that hysterical laughter that makes your eyes water and doubles you over? He can't do that.
  • The definition: Sleep apnea is pausing in breathing or shallow breathing while you sleep.
  • His experience: My husband stops breathing in his sleep. Sometimes this will last so briefly that I barely notice it, other times, he doesn't take a breath until he wakes up gasping for air.
  • The definition: Sleep paralysis is an inability to talk, walk or move, either before or after sleep.
  • His experience: Sometimes when my husband is very tired, he can't move. This happens most often when I try to wake him. I have to shake him for several minutes while calling his name to help him regain control of his limbs.
  • The definition: Hypnagogic hallucinations are like waking dreams that incorporate the person's real environment.
  • His experience: When my husband is falling asleep, occasionally he'll confuse reality with what he's seeing in his head. Here's a prime example:
Me, I mean, Janet Jackson from The 80s Man

One night, we were talking before we went to bed. Little did I know that my husband had already fallen asleep, but was still talking to me. His eyes were wide open and he seemed lucid. When I noticed that he was slurring his words, I asked if he was alright.
He angrily replied, "I'm fine Ms. Jackson."
His tone threw me, because 'Ms. Jackson' sounded like some kind of insult. Confused, I asked, "Why are you calling me Ms. Jackson?"
He replied, "Because you are!"
I said, "What? Who am I?"
He said, very sarcastically, "Janet!"
That's when I realized that he was soooo not awake anymore. When I later told him about our conversation, we both cracked up.

I love relating that story because it's one of the few times that we've been able to laugh at his illness.


  1. The times may be few but it's admirable that you have something lighthearted to remember about such a serious condition.