Chances are, unless you have narcolepsy, all you've ever heard about it could be summed up in a few jokes or sight gags on TV. It hasn't had a lot of press. Not the factual kind, at any rate.
Maybe you didn't even know that narcolepsy is a real condition that real people suffer from. But for those who have narcolepsy, it is a very real condition that ensnares them in some very real problems.
Here are some things that the average person probably doesn't know. Read on, and learn more about it. The people who suffer from narcolepsy would appreciate it.
1) Narcolepsy is a neurological condition that leaves the brain unable to regulate sleep-wake cycles.
Narcolepsy can cause insomnia at night when you want to be asleep. It can leave you drowsy and foggy during the day, hardly able to stay awake for hours at a time. It can also cause what may best be described as sudden sleep attacks that can happen anytime.
This tragic disorder has been played out in movies and sitcoms, as the hapless character suddenly falls asleep in mid-sentence, falling to the ground or face-planting in their food. Not so funny when the reality is known, is it.
2) Narcolepsy causes REM sleep to happen much earlier in the sleep cycle.
People who have normal sleep move from the early stages into deeper sleep, ending up in rapid eye movement sleep after about an hour and a half. Conversely, people who have narcolepsy fall very quickly into REM even during the waking hours.
3) Most known cases occur by 25 years of age.
WebMD.com says the majority of known cases happen between ages 15 and 25. Mayoclinic.org says they emerge between ages 10 and 25.
Any age can be at risk for narcolepsy, though. Very often the condition remains undiagnosed, which means it is also not treated, bringing great complications to a life.
4) We're still guessing as to what causes narcolepsy.
Research seems to indicate, though, that some genes which regulate sleep/wake brain chemicals may be linked with the condition. It may be related to a lack of hypocretin, a chemical manufactured in the brain.