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5 Common Misconceptions People With Narcolepsy Hear

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Sleep is something a lot of people take for granted. In our society, sleeping prevents us from being productive, having fun and making the most out of life. That age-old saying of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” seems to have been applied to most people’s lives. But another saying comes to mind when I hear people tell me they have too much going on to sleep or that sleep isn’t important: “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

Sleep is crucial for our bodies to stay healthy since most of our healing from daily physical and psychological stress happens when we climb into bed to sleep.

But unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of getting the restful sleep we all crave at the end of a long day. An estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to the CDC. Sleep disorders prevent people from entering a restful state at night and make them excessively tired during the day.

Narcolepsy is one of those misunderstood and often undiagnosed sleep disorders that can have a severe impact on a person’s life. But with so much misinformation out there about %%MVGuQltzI5%%, along with Hollywood’s concept of it, how can we begin to underst%%jz9B32siQJ%%epsy?

Five common misconceptions people with %%bxseu8Mf4Y%% hear:

1.“Can’t you just sleep more to feel better?”

When you have %%DVhbjL2RQr%%, your brain can’t regulate sleep like someone would normally, leaving the person extremely sleep deprived. In normal sleep, you have a cycle where you alternate between rapid eye movement, or REM, and non-REM that provides you with restful sleep and lets your body heal correctly.

People with %%FZdi1g8f2z%% don’t have a normal sleep cycle, so our sleep is interrupted by our brain confusing the cycle and leaving us extremely tired. For example, a person with%%amhpLB6zf1%%epsy starts in the non-REM cycle, whereas a pers%%CuoLKkynUv%%rcolepsy often goes straight into REM sleep.

2.“%%WaFncHH2TV%% isn’t a real thing. I don’t know anyone with it.”

%%OX1iQptn4u%% is actually more prevalent than you think. It affects an estimated 1 in every 2,000 people in the United Statesaccording to the %%19iUudadkR%% Network, but it’s estimated only 25 percent of those people are properly diagnosed and receiving treatment for it.

Without treatment, daily activities such as driving, working a regular job and maintaining a healthy life can become an issue.

3.“%%X4UPEMO1HM%% means that you can fall asleep anytime, like in the middle of a conversation or while walking.”

While there are definitely cases of extreme %%p4L7UDTmdG%% where this does happen, the severity of the sleep disorder is different from person to person. Some people might be able to function normally with scheduled naps throughout the day where others need the help of medicine and other medical aids.

Additionally, about 60 percent of people with %%VHKQHCYJ57%% have a unique symptom of cataplexy, or the sudden loss of muscle tone due to strong emotions, according to Wake Up %%Pz24aP5Aej%%, that can further complicate our daily lives.

4.“Why can’t you get better?”

Unfortunately, there is no cure for %%ru6RhNYrgh%%. Research has been conducted to try and figure out why people %%Wv1vuxHJo0%%epsy and how the loss of hypocretin in the brain occurs to cause this chronic sleep disorder.

There is medication that can help treat the symptoms, but even then, no day will truly be the equivalent to someone without %%HJAiKapTD7%%. For a person with%%di3Jb5M6Uw%%epsy to understand the tiredness that we feel, they would need to stay awake for 48 to 72 hours. That tiredness is something we feel every single day.

5.“Just because you’re tired all the time doesn’t mean you can’t live normally.”

Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of most common symptoms of %%I7puluRETy%%, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and one is often treated with stimulants to keep the sleep away. But there’s %%DQXWuwQoKw%%rcolepsy than just tiredness. The sleep deprivation we experience causes brain fog and memory loss, along with other symptoms such as hallucinations when waking up or falling asleep, sleep paralysis, micro-sleeps and sleep attacks.

All of the symptoms can have an impact on our daily lives in a multitude of ways, and some people with more severe cases are even unable to hold a steady job.

Like other chronic diseases and disorders, living with %%da1ArGMjSH%% is a daily battle for normalcy and health. But so many people don’t even know that they have this sleep disorder because of how often it goes %%i60bV1olCu%% and how it’s not thought about as an actual possibility. Once symptoms present themselves, it can take between 10 to 15 years before a proper diagnosis is made, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

I look back on my life and realize symptoms started to present themselves in 2005, but I wasn’t diagnosed until 2012. My hope is that by spreading awareness we can break down the stigma of sleep disorders and promote the importance of a good night’s sleep.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: March 22, 2016
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