Ever get one of those moments that make you say "Wow!"
UKTV Documentary Channel has this evening had a couple of hours of programmes on Narcolepsy, a debilitating disease I have had for most of my life. I don't like to call it a disease, because that's not a nice word for it. It's an inconvenience in my life, a bit like hayfever to other people. Instead of just getting the sneezes or the sniffles though, I just get points where I have no choice but to go to sleep.
Well the first programme shown was called "Nap Attack" and was first shown on the BBC about a year ago. I watched this when it was first shown, and although it was interesting, it had 2 flaws. First was the fact that it made out all Narcoleptics were completely out of control, and secondly it tried to make no explanation as to why this happens. It seemed more to sensationalise the illness, then explain it, much like a freak at a circus. It was still interesting viewing though because I haven't ever seen someone else have seizures (or as I like to call them, blackouts) like I have.
I thought that was it though, and then a second programme from the BBC Horizon team came on. It was truly amazing viewing, explaining not only the illness, but it's side effects. It has been known for years that Narcoleptics are normally overweight. We have a very low metabolism and as such a normal diet is not really acceptable. My pulse at rest is normally about 45 beats per minute, I have exceptionally low blood pressure (except when my son is doing my head in!) and I have a low calorific requirement per day. Most grown men require a daily intake of 2,500 calories. Doctors estimate my requirement to be only 400 calories. On this page is an interesting point that links the Orexin to other bodily functions, primarily pain and sexual arousal. Both are the prime reason I suffer blackouts nowadays. Some narcoleptics talk of laughing triggering the blackouts, but this just isn't the case for me. It's incredible reading something that identifies the problem and it's like a breath of fresh air.
This programme goes on to explain about a doctor hired to look into obesity, and what causes it. He isolates the hypothalamus and even a neurotransmitter that controls the appetite, and then decides he is going to remove it from lab mice. The mice he then has not only stop eating, but start to put on weight(!). The behaviour was studied, and at night it was discovered the mice were showing the symptoms of Narcolepsy. The Neurotransmitter has since been named "Orexin" and has been identified that it is the chemical that keeps us all awake.
Now the worrying thing has happened. All the chemists of the world have to now do is produce a drug that replaces Orexin. This means that everyone, not only narcoleptics, will be able to stay awake all the time. This is terrifying in reality. Your body cannot surely survive without sleep? It makes you wonder.
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