A flight attendant writes for Prevention Magazine about her experience living with narcolepsy.
As a freshman in college, I started having trouble making it to my classes on time. I would wake up, only to fall back asleep and dream that I was getting ready.
I stopped going to see my parents as frequently because I couldn’t make the hour and 15-minute drive home without falling asleep on the road. (Thankfully, I never had an accident!) I was extremely irritable all the time. I would cry over silly things like it being too hot outside, or get overwhelmed by little problems, like school assignments. The more I stressed, the sleepier I would get. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I was sleeping more hours than I was awake. That semester I failed all my classes and lost both my jobs.
I decided to research sleep disorders and told my primary care doctor I thought something was wrong. I was referred to a sleep specialist and received my narcolepsy diagnosis in 2013 at the age of 20. Before I met with the specialist, I thought I was only experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. But it turned out that I suffer from all five symptoms associated with narcolepsy which, in addition to daytime sleepiness, include hallucinations, sleep disruption, sleep paralysis (yes, it’s as scary as it sounds), and cataplexy. That’s when all the muscles suddenly lose their tension and stiffness and become floppy while you’re awake, leading to the loss of voluntary muscle control.