Thursday, July 22

The Narcoleptic's Family

In my husband's family, his sleep pattern was a running joke.
Image courtesy of artur84/
"Where is he?" someone might ask.
In response, laughingly, "Lemme guess... asleep!"

No one ever wanted to wake him. Since he would often wake violently - flailing, shouting, or even hitting out at something or someone - waking him could be a scary event! He was often considered lazy, antisocial, weird, moody, and someone who "just loved to sleep." Once as a gift, one of his siblings even bought him a t-shirt that read: "Consciousness. That annoying time between naps."

Sure, it was funny... sometimes. Then we got married. Living with my husband meant being with him on a daily basis, sleeping next to him, and observing him throughout the day. Over time, it became obvious that something was seriously wrong. I wondered how anyone who had ever lived with him had missed indications that he was barely keeping it together most of the time. His sleep patterns were the most telling:
  • He talked, shouted, and occasionally even screamed in his sleep.
  • He would fall asleep all of the time - even after just waking up.
  • He was always physically tired, sometimes even too weak to get up from bed.
  • He would often go on food binges in the middle of the night, leaving a huge mess but barely remembering it the next day.
  • It was nearly impossible to wake him up.
  • When he went to bed, he would fall asleep instantly - literally.
  • Most alarmingly, when expressing a strong emotion, sometimes he would suddenly collapse, falling to the floor, unable to move.
Years later, my husband told me that when he was a child, he would often fall asleep in the car when he and his family went somewhere. When they arrived at their destination, everyone would try to wake him, calling his name, yelling for him. Although he could hear them, he couldn't move. This terrified him because he was awake, but he could not open his eyes or give any indication that he wasn't actually asleep. It wasn't until someone would physically shake him that he would be "unlocked" from his frozen state and could move.

I don't fault my husband's family for not knowing that he had Narcolepsy. After all, he didn't even know that he had it. They were leading their own lives and probably chalked his symptoms up to what many of us would - he needed more exercise, vitamins, fresh air...

If someone you know and love exhibits any symptoms like those I described in this post, don't hesitate to have them see a doctor. It may not be narcolepsy, but it could be a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes that's all it takes - a concerned family member who says, "Something isn't right."

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