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Potentially Narcolepsy?

by Katie
(Sacramento, CA)

I am 20 years old, female, and lately I have begun to experience a myriad of abnormalities relating to my sleeping and waking life. The first incident that really jarred me into action was what I believe to have been a state of hypnopompia after awakening from a very short dream. When I looked at my cell phone after waking, I was shocked to see only 20 minutes had passed, from the very vivid dream, to waking up and experiencing the hallucinations. During the hallucinations I could clearly see my room, just as it had been when I had fallen asleep. I looked around, trying to find help, but only saw shadowy figures, flashes of light, faces coming out of the walls, and heard many noises. My dog, who sleeps in my bed, seemed to be having a seizure in my arms, though when I awoke he was perfectly fine. During this episode, I tried many times to call out to my parents, only to find I couldn’t move my mouth or body, only my eyes. Eventually, I managed to wake myself up. It terrified me to no end.

During the day I was a wreck, always so tired my eyes felt like they were on fire, and I began failing school due to my constant need to sleep. Well, that was about three months ago. Then, two months ago, I had another experience, this time hypnogogic in nature. As I lay in bed, I became aware of someone sitting by my bed. After a moment I realize it’s my old friend Sally, with whom I had had a fight and ended our friendship. Angrily, I left my bed and walked towards the door, stumbling over lawn chairs the whole time, as Sally talked. I couldn’t understand her, but I heard a kind of static in the background, as I realized my walls were covered in graffiti. Realizing I was dreaming, I woke up.

After that, the frequency of the strange dreams/hallucinations, and the fatigue increased. The next experience was even more frightening, because it included an element the others before it had lacked. In this instance, I was lying in bed when I remembered that I needed to get something. I struggled for a moment to move, and thought perhaps I was experiencing sleep paralysis. After a moment, I was able to get out of bed and walk into the living room of my house. Only, everything was different. The walls were crumbling and covered in cob-webs, the windows were boarded up, and everything had a fun-house feel to it. I called out to someone, and heard a voice answer back faintly, before waking up in my bed. It felt very out of body, but I can’t be too sure.

The next experience was scarier still, which seems to be the trend. Lucky me, I guess. Anyway, in this instance I 'woke up' in my car, and looked around in confusion. I had just been in bed! I spotted a few shadow figures on the streets, and realized I was dreaming or hallucinating or something. When that realization came to me, everything started to fade out, and try as I might, I couldn’t resist ‘falling asleep’ on the steering wheel of my car (which was parked outside of my house). I woke up in bed after that, only to see more shadow people crowding my room, prompting another black out.

Waking once more in bed, I went to the bathroom, but when I opened the door, the room wasn’t what I expected. It was lavishly decorated, and there were three women (I think) sitting on a fainting couch. The two on the outside had faces that constantly shifted, their eyes and nose drifting around wherever they pleased, while the third had no face at all, as well as no hair, but I’m certain s/he was speaking to me. Finally, I woke up in my bed for real, after hitting a moment of sleep paralysis and slight hypnogogia on the way out.

It was at this point that I started keeping track of notable experiences, and find that I generally have two in a two week time span, though sometimes they are very separated. On the 31st of January, I woke to find myself conscious of my surroundings, but noticed a buzzing/tingling feeling in my body. Once more, I can feel my dog shaking in my arms. After relaxing and waiting for the moment to pass, I was able to get up.

A week later, I suddenly became aware of someone lying in my bed next to me (a huge feat, given the fact that I sleep in a twin bed). The person was completely shadowy, and looking up at the ceiling as they 'spoke', though their speech was just a bit of quiet static. Suddenly, they turned their head very sharply to look at me, a wide grin on their face, as the static gets louder, until it became a loud bang, and I was able to move. Looking at my clock, the entire thing lasted under 5 minutes.

There are other stories but I really don’t feel like typing them all up. In addition to all of these dream and sleep problems, I’m exhausted during the day, even though I get anywhere from 6-8 hours of sleep a night. I am considering making an appointment with a sleep center. I haven’t noticed any extreme cataplexy, but there are times when I am with friends in a large crowd, where I suddenly lose all energy and slump against whoever/whatever is near me, or just kind of zone out. When people talk to me, it takes me a minute to be able to respond, like I suddenly was half way between sleep and wakefulness, though I’m not sure if that classifies as cataplexy. I guess I’m just looking for answers, on whether or not this could be narcolepsy.

Kevin: Hi Katie, Thanks for writing in. Sleep paralysis and the type of shadow-dreams you describe can happen with some frequency independent of narcolepsy, but the fact that you are experiencing them with a pretty great amount of frequency along with your last key paragraph about being exhausted during the day and occasionally slumping over makes me think that it would indeed be wise to seek medical advice about having narcolepsy. Any kind of excessive sleepiness during the day should be treated. You deserve to be alert and lively, and I hope you find the answers you seek from a doctor.


(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)

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