MUSIC PLAYING:NARRATOR: We all have days wherewe're extra tired.But usually, a good night'ssleep will set you straight.But what if you can't getenough quality sleep?That is what it feelslike to have narcolepsy.When you hear the word"narcolepsy,"
you might immediately picturesomeone falling asleepin some unnatural position.These stereotypes go to show howlittle people understandabout the condition.
HELENE EMSELLEM: There's beentoo much of narcolepsy beingused as the butt of the joke.People think that sleepy peoplehave been having way too muchfun the eveningbefore or that they're toolazy to stay engaged.NARRATOR: Narcolepsy is actuallyan ongoing condition thataffects the part of your brainthat helps you stay awake.
HELENE EMSELLEM: When we wake upin the morning,it's because the central regionsof our brainhave fulfilled the needfor sleep and are now signalingwakefulness.
NARRATOR: Neuronsin the hypothalamus releaseorexin, a brain chemical thathelps keep us alertand prevents REM sleepfrom happeningat the wrong time.The neurons playan essential role in keeping youawake.Unusually low levels of orexinkeeps your brain from processingthese wake signals,so you end up feeling sleepyall day.
HELENE EMSELLEM: In narcolepsy,we see REM spillinto the daytime, unprovoked,when we don't want it there.And in rapid eye movement sleep,we are paralyzed.
NARRATOR: This can causephysical weakness and dreamlikehallucinations.The brain literally dreams whileawake.
HELENE EMSELLEM: A patientwith narcolepsy may not wake upcleanly.Their brains may awaken,but they may have episodesof sleep paralysiswhere they're awake but can'tmove yet.
NARRATOR: Patients alsoexperience weird dreamsduring the day whileawake in the formof hallucinations.There are two typesof narcolepsy.Type 1 narcolepsy can causeexcessive sleepinessand a sudden loss of musclecontrol called cataplexy.
HELENE EMSELLEM: Cataplexy isusually triggeredby a significant emotionalshift.They're usually awake and canhear what's going on.
NARRATOR: Type 2 narcolepsy,on the other hand,is mainly categorizedby fatigue, but normal levelsof orexin.People strugglingwith narcolepsy oftenstruggle against public stigma.
HELENE EMSELLEM: And there'ssometimes an avoidanceof social circumstancesbecause they don't want to fallasleep in public.NARRATOR: As the science digsdeeper into the complex reasonsbehind the condition,treatment options are expanding.
HELENE EMSELLEM: There aretreatments available to improvealertnessand to manage cataplexyand narcolepsy.And we have medicationsavailable that allow for a muchmore sustained levelof alertness.
NARRATOR: These treatments alsoreduce the symptomsof disturbed nighttime sleep.
HELENE EMSELLEM: There are waysto restore orexin functionalityin the brain.Maybe at some timein the future, we could use stemcells to restore orexinin people who don't have it.
NARRATOR: Scientists are notentirely sure why orexin ismissing.An explanation may bethat the orexin cells are beingdestroyedby an autoimmune attack.HELENE EMSELLEM: Most patientswith narcolepsyare left with the needto adaptto the residual symptoms,to adapt their lifestyleappropriately.
NARRATOR: The differencebetween the public perceptionversus the realitynarcoleptic patients faceevery day is profound.However, with advancesin research, accurate education,and increasing understanding,we can close this gapand change the livesof narcoleptic patientsand their loved onesfor the better.