Narcolepsy: Sleep Attacks

Now and then, everyone can be sleepy at times during the day for many reasons. But, if you continually experience excessive daily daytime sleepiness–sometimes expressed as tiredness, lack of energy, and/or irresistible sleepiness–you could be suffering from another little-known, chronic sleep disorder called narcolepsy. According to the American Narcolepsy Association, 1 out of every 100 Americans is afflicted with this disorder. Yet, between 50 and 80 percent of them remain undiagnosed. People with narcolepsy suffer from sleep apnea more often than the general population, although apnea is not a core feature of the disorder.

During an attack, the person may find it physically impossible to stay awake and will sleep for periods ranging from a few seconds to a half hour. An attack can occur while watching TV, reading, or listening to a lecture. More surprising, these sudden attacks of sleep can also strike while walking, eating, riding a bike, or carrying on a conversation.

Despite growing knowledge about narcolepsy, people who have these symptoms often do not seek medical help for years. At first, the symptoms are rather mild, but over a period of years, they can increase in severity. Reserve time for a sleep test to help determine if this condition could relate to you.

Additional information provided by National Sleep Foundation: