Narcolepsy caught on film is a shocking event, or so it would seem by the recent reaction to a viral video that made it to the airwaves of the Today Show. A summary of the Today Show segment by Meghan Holohan shows a woman with the condition who passes out on her desk.
“Narcoleptics go through their days as normal individuals who haven’t slept for a few days,” says Jerome Siegel, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, in the article. Siegel heads The Siegel Lab, which studies disorders of REM sleep.
As she fights through the cataplexy, the woman in the video experiences micronaps, short bursts of unconsciousness.
“To see this in video form, it really helps to capture the extremes of what cataplexy can do to you. Sarah can very easily transition from full conscious awareness to a sleep state,” says Dr. Michael Newman, a sleep medicine specialist who treats the woman.
“While narcolepsy is a chronic condition with available treatments, such as prescribing amphetamines to keep people awake and alert—Siegel says experts do understand what causes it,” writes Holohan. “In 2000, his research group learned that people with narcolepsy have fewer of a certain type of neurons, known as hypocretin, in their hypothalamus. This neuron promotes wakefulness. Most people have about 75,000 hypocretins while people with narcolepsy have only about 7,000.”