Good old Narcolepsy. Everyone thinks that they have it, yet not that many do. 1 in every 2000 people actually have narcolepsy. This comes out to about 3 million people in the entire world.
It’s not uncommon in the sleep lab to have patients come in that think they have narcolepsy. More often that not (much more often) they are diagnosed with sleep apnea. Most people with sleep apnea report not being able to stay awake and falling asleep at inappropriate times, so they default to narcolepsy. So before you get to far invested in diagnosing yourself with narcolepsy, check out the video below.
Maybe you do have narcolepsy though. If so you basically fall asleep at inappropriate times and fall asleep very quickly. You can see where people confuse it with sleep apnea. At night, people with narcolepsy will fall asleep and immediately go into REM sleep (the stage where you dream). Normally it takes people 90 minutes to go into their first REM period. 60 minutes if there is a history of depression.
Narcolepsy can be accompanied by cataplexy, which is when a strong emotion or laughter can cause you to lose muscle tone, collapse, and go unconscious….fall asleep immediately in other words.
Narcolepsy can also include hypnagogic hallucinations. These are when your waking and dreaming worlds collide. You are awake, but can hear, see, and feel things that aren’t there. (Alien butt probe anyone?)
Sadly, you can’t diagnose yourself with narcolepsy. You actually need a test call an MSLT. Multiple Sleep Latency Test. This consists of an all night polysomnograph (sleep study without treatment). You need this to document at least 6 hours of sleep prior to the naps in the MSLT. Starting two hours after your polysomnograph ends, you have your first nap. The nap consists of you given time to fall asleep. If you do fall asleep we look for how long it took as well as if you had REM sleep. Then you have 4 more naps for a total of 5 naps. Each nap has a start time 2 hours apart. This is a LONG DAMN DAY for the patient.
Usually falling asleep on a few naps or all naps without REM sleep gets you a diagnosis of idiopathic hypersomnia. This is latin for: boy….you sure are tired but we still don’t know why. Here, take some uppers! That’ll make you feel right as rain!
Having REM sleep on any of the naps or even just two will get you that narcolepsy diagnosis. The treatment is usually something like Nuvigil or Provigil.