ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside February/March 2007

Seduced by Sleep

Scientists have uncovered key clues to a strange disorder that puts its victims to sleep without warning--often at their own peril. The science boosts hope for new treatments while shedding light on the secrets of sleep

Many schoolchildren try to sneak naps at their desks to get through the boring parts of class. Rainer Schmitt, on the other hand, always fought hard to stay awake. He would nod off anyway--in virtually every class period. And it was never the teacher's fault. Since childhood, Schmitt has suffered from an unusual neurological disorder: narcolepsy.

Now a 56-year-old math teacher, Schmitt still struggles with overwhelming daytime sleepiness and fatigue, the hallmark symptom of narcolepsy. Instead of feeling awake for 16 hours and sleepy for eight, as most people do, Schmitt, like other narcoleptics, wants to sleep every couple of hours during the day. Fleeting urges to nod off plague him. Eventually the desire to sleep is overwhelming, and then he may actually fall asleep, usually for a few seconds or up to several minutes. He may nod off in the middle of a lecture, meeting or conversation. He could even fall asleep at the wheel.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Dinosaurs

Get Total Access to our Digital Anthology

1,200 Articles

Order Now - Just $39! >

X

Email this Article

X