Famous People with Narcolepsy- Hollywood and Beyond

Narcolepsy is a neurological disease that knows no race, class, age or gender. Narcolepsy doesn’t differentiate between popular people and obscure people, meaning famous people can be victims of this sleep disorder just as easily as Joe Bob Smith down the block. Throughout history there have been several cases of famous people living with narcolepsy, with even more speculated cases.

For those who do not already know, narcolepsy is a sleep disorders the affects an estimated three million people worldwide. It causes people to feel extremely tired, especially when their attention is required on a specific subject. More times than not, this extreme tiredness leads to episodes of uncontrollable sleeping, which in turn can lead to embarrassing situations, injuries, and in worst case scenarios, death.

The main symptoms of narcolepsy are extreme daytime sleepiness (E.D.S.), cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations. A few secondary symptoms of narcolepsy are forgetfulness, insomnia, sleepwalking, and depression. People with narcolepsy very rarely have all of the symptoms associated with this disorder, but it can never be ruled as impossibility.

A Closer Look at the Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • EDS- this is really the defining symptom of narcolepsy.  Patients who suffer from EDS are not lazy, nor do they sleep more than a person with a healthy sleep cycle.  Their nighttime sleep is polluted by insomnia or any sleep disorder that interrupts REM sleep, such as sleep paralysis, apnea, etc.  As a result, their bodies try to make up for the loss during day. The patient is not given a choice, either.  The desire to sleep is so strong it is a compulsion.

  • Cataplexy- Cataplexy is experienced by seventy percent of patients with narcoplexy.  During a cataplectic episode, a patient temporarily loses muscle tone and control.  This can be a minor event, like a slackening of part of the face.  It can be so minor; it goes unnoticed, especially since it can be short- mere seconds.  It can also be severe.  A Cataplectic episode can last for over an hour and can result in total collapse.  Cataplexy is triggered by extreme emotions and is experienced while the subject is completely alert and awake.

  • Sleep Paralysis- the third symptom is not exclusive to narcolepsy. A large number of people have reported an episode of sleep paralysis once or twice in a lifetime.  About thirty percent of narcolepsy patients experience this phenomenon regularly.  Sleep paralysis is sometimes accompanied by hallucinations that can seem surreal and dark.  These hallucinations are experienced during the twilight while falling asleep or waking.

Famous People and Celebrities with Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is not fun for the people that have to live with its symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that people with narcolepsy can’t have meaningful and prosperous lives. For some, it is all they can do to live on a daily basis. For others, it is a mere stone they must step over in order to achieve greatness.

Famous people and narcolepsy are not two things that are normally paired together when speaking or writing. It just doesn’t seem to make sense, but this just goes to show how anyone can be diagnosed as narcoleptic. Here we will discuss some famous people with narcolepsy disorder, including movie stars, and politicians who have lived with narcolepsy and became iconic.

  • Jimmy Kimmel is an American comedian and talk show host that was diagnosed with narcolepsy a few years ago. His best known work is from The Man Show and Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! He said that he was having trouble staying awake during filming, so he began to drink gallons of tea on a daily basis to try to combat the fatigue. He has been known to fall asleep during normal working hours, prompting his doctor visit, which resulted in his narcolepsy diagnosis. He was prescribed Provigil, which he takes once a day to help control his mild narcolepsy.

  • Natassja Kinski is a German-born actress who has starred in over sixty films throughout her career. She won the Golden Globe Award for her role in the Roman Polanski film “Tess”. She was known the world over as a sex symbol in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She was diagnosed with narcolepsy, although the exact extent of her condition has been kept from the public eye.

  • Harold M. Ickes is an American Democratic politician who has had a lengthy career, serving as White House Deputy Chief of Staff during the Bill Clinton Administration and being involved in other presidential campaigns. He also served as an advisor during David Dinkins’ campaign for the mayor of New York City. He has been known to have trouble concentrating on the task at hand, whatever it may be, and has also been known to fall asleep at the office. He takes prescribed medication to help combat his narcolepsy.

  • Aaron Flahavan was an English football (soccer) player who suffered from frequent blackouts that was believed to be attributed to narcolepsy. In 2001 he lost his life in an automobile accident, which police said was a result of his narcolepsy. This was later ruled out; as the autopsy confirmed that his blood alcohol level was over the normal limit.

  • Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister during World War 2 who had a well-loved personality. He had narcolepsy stemming from long periods of irregular sleep.

  • Nicole Jeray is a professional golfer who suffers from acute narcolepsy. Her battle with this chronic sleep disorder is probably the best known story in the circles of narcolepsy and famous people. She was diagnosed in 1993 after being pulled over by police for erratic driving. She had fallen asleep at movies, parties and any other place she tried to experience a fun time. The excitement of golf is a big trigger for her, and she is often forced into sudden periods of sleep during a game. With her case of narcolepsy, her emotions play a major role, as too much drama can cause an acute sleep attack.

  • Teresa Nielson Hayden is an American essayist and science fiction writer/editor who has been nominated for five Hugo Awards. Her fight against narcolepsy is well known in the literary world.

As stated earlier, anyone from any race or status can have narcolepsy disorder and famous people are not immune. Falling asleep during the filming of a movie or during an important sporting event can be crippling to a person’s career. Anyone who suffers with sleep disorders, narcolepsy and other ailments of this type and goes public with their condition deserves much praise for being brave enough to face their situation.


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