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Narcolepsy isn’t just about attacks of sleepiness

Paul Ingraham ARCHIVEDMicroblog posts are archived and rarely updated. In contrast, most long-form articles on are updated regularly over the years (see updates page).

Over the last decade, my reading list has gone from “too much” to “too much for an army.” I’ve now carefully prioritized about several lifetimes worth of reading. It’s possible I’m not going to get to all of it…

Most recently completed book: a useful and fascinating tour of sleep disorders from the perspective of a narcoleptic, Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of a Good Night’s Rest. This interview with the author is a good introduction.

The main thing to understand about narcolepsy is that it’s not just about falling asleep when you shouldn’t, but about rotten control over sleep in general. Narcoleptics usually can’t sleep when they want to any more than they can stay awake when they need to. The condition is one of several overlapping pathologies that screw with the neurology and endocrinology of sleep regulation and circadian rhythms. Learning this has surprisingly broad relevance to understanding sleep in general.

It turns out I am almost certainly a mild to moderate narcoleptic myself. I’ve always had what seems to be a pathological need for daytime napping. It’s the main reason I’m self-employed. When I listened to the interview with the author, I had few moments of “holy crap that sounds like me” and “wow, that would explain a lot.” So I read the book and easily confirmed that first impression: narcolepsy is a spectrum disorder, and I am definitely on that spectrum. This is going to affect a lot of my writing on the topic of insomnia.

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