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Dreaming Awake
By Stephen Smith
September 2, 1997

NARCOLEPSY IS ONE OF the most debilitating sleep disorders - and one that doctors often fail to diagnose. People with untreated narcolepsy suffer chronic sleepiness. No matter how much rest they get at night, narcoleptics struggle the next day against sudden sleep attacks, temporary paralysis and even hallucinations. The episodes can last from a few seconds to more than half an hour.

Experts say that narcolepsy is as common as multiple sclerosis. A quarter of a million Americans have the chronic disorder. Medication can ease many of the symptoms of narcolepsy, but the social and emotional damage is harder to heal.

Researchers are studying new ways to treat narcolepsy. Sleep scientists are also looking at how the condition disrupts the sleep-and-waking machinery in a narcoleptic's brain in order to explain how normal sleep functions in everyone else.

PHOTO: Kris and Eric Johnson of Becker, Minnesota with their 2-year-old daughter Kallie. Kris is a teacher who has narcolepsy.

Click for audio Dreaming Awake Stories

Part One: Living with Narcolepsy
Stories from the front lines of this disabling disease.

Part Two: Narcolepsy Research
Scientists are searching for the genetic causes of narcolepsy, and for new medications to treat the disorder.

Fact Sheet and Links
A list of things you might not know about narcolepsy and links for more information.


Narcoleptic Dogs
Meet Beau as he experiences an attack of cataplexy at Stanford University's animal research lab.

Totally Crashed
Emmanuel Mignot describes Beau's attack of sudden paralysis.

Asleep and Awake
Cataplexy is a daytime manifestation of normal nighttime sleep behavior.

Up and Down
Beau's narcoleptic episodes last less than a minute. This additional footage of Beau does not have sound.