‘People thought I was lazy, it turned out to be narcolepsy’

Mohit was diagnosed with narcolepsy, a rare neurological disorder caused by the brain's inability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It is a disorder in which a person falls asleep at random times. There is no specific cure of for this disease

‘People thought I was lazy, it turned out to be narcolepsy’

Family members and friends of Mohit More (name changed), a 26-year-old, always knew that he slept a lot. Even during the day, Mohit used to get an excessive urge to sleep which he could not control. He slept for 14 to 16 hours in a day. It was considered that he had a habit of sleeping excessively by everyone who knew him. They also thought he was lazy as he slept too much.

Mohit continued to get an uncontrollable urge to sleep even after he started working. He used to fall asleep in the office. At times, even in the presence of his seniors and bosses. After noticing his perfection and commitment to work, his seniors didn’t consider him as a lazy employee. He was encouraged to visit a doctor to find out the reason behind his sleep problem.

Mohit was diagnosed with narcolepsy, a rare neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It is a disorder in which a person falls asleep at random times. There is no specific cure of for this disease. “I used to get sleep attacks since I was 13 years of age. My parents and other family members used think that I sleep so much because I am lazy. After being diagnosed with narcolepsy, I became aware of my own physical condition. When the doctor told me that I have narcolepsy, I just noted down the name of the condition. I didn’t know anything about it. I was completely shattered when I got to know that it is not a curable and can be managed. I cried a lot, it took me a while to accept the fact that I have this disease,” said Mohit.

According to the Dr Milan Balakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatrist at Juno Clinic, “Narcolepsy is so rare that it is found only in 0.02 per cent of the population. Once a patient understands why he/she is having its symptoms he/she finds it easier to deal with it. It is important to diagnose it properly.”

In Mohit’s case, it took almost 4 months for the diagnosis and after that it took nearly 4 months to put him on the right medication to regulate his sleep cycle.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Sagar Mundada, a Consultant Psychiatrist based in Mumbai said, “Though there is no known cure for narcolepsy, it can be managed by adopting certain lifestyle modifications. They need to follow a regular schedule of taking their medication and diet.” After being diagnosed with narcolepsy, further health investigations revealed that Mohit had hypothyroidism, a condition characterised by abnormally low functioning of the thyroid gland, which results in retardation or stagnation of growth and mental development in children and adults.

After starting the medication, he was advised to follow a low-fat diet, exercise regularly and not to have stimulating beverages such as coffee after 3 pm.

Almost after a year and a half year of being diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2015, Mohit is dealing successfully with it but this was not without having a severe emotional struggle with his condition. Mohit had to give up his higher education and had to rethink his dream which was to appear for the competitive exams.

“This disorder also played a major role in my break up. My girlfriend used to think that I am lazy. When you sleep for almost 16 hours a day you also feel guilty about it. There were many ups and downs on the path of learning to live with this disorder. I made myself guilt free and then the rest became easy,” Mohit said.

While highlighting the need of being aware about this disease, Mohit said that usually, people know about someone not being able to sleep (insomnia) but they don’t understand why someone would fall asleep suddenly.

What is narcolepsy?

  • Narcolepsy is a rare neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles.

  • A person can fall asleep at irregular times

  • A person experiences disturb sleep at night and an has an abnormal sleep cycle

  • At the onset of sleep, a person generally experiences Rapid Eye Movement (REM)