The woman, Caley Dove, missed out on many things after developing the rare condition that causes her to fall asleep whenever she gets happy.
Caley Dove, used to fall asleep in exams at school, experienced hallucinations and began talking “gibberish” with friends, whenever she felt overly emotional – including if she gets stressed, happy or sad.
Because she falls asleep every now and then due to the rare condition, the 27-year-old woman is said to have spent approximately 14 years of her life sleeping.
Part of her condition is something called cataplexy , which weakens the body’s muscle-tone when she experiences strong emotions, causing her to nod off.
Despite going to her doctor repeatedly, she spent years being misdiagnosed and “ignored” by the system until the age of 26 – when she was finally diagnosed with narcolepsy.
Once, the mother-of-one only narrowly escaped being seriously injured because of her condition, when she fell down during an episode.
Caley, who lives in East Grinstead, West Sussex, said: “Any strong emotion like anger, sadness or even if you find something really funny can bring it on.
“When I was younger I couldn’t control it. Once, I felt really angry and my muscles just collapsed and I ended up falling down a flight of stairs.”
Caley’s symptoms first started appearing at school, but her teachers didn’t believe there was anything wrong with her and brushed her off as “lazy“.
She said: “It’s very odd, because not all people with narcolepsy fall on the floor when they have an episode. I could still write and have a conversation with my friends, but afterwards I wouldn’t remember what we’d been talking about, and I’d start talking gibberish which had nothing to do with conversation.
“It’s like you’re not all there – my parents just thought I was lazy because I’d get home and go straight to sleep.”
She found the situation extremely hard to deal with because no one understood what she was going through.
She said: “When I was younger I was quite depressed because I had no one to talk to. Everyone thought it was all in my head, it’s such an invisible thing.
“I had to sleep in my mum’s room because I was so scared of the hallucinations as well.”
Caley also said the condition can leave sufferers feeling like they have constantly just woken up – and in a bad mood.
She said: “Your personality changes when you wake up. Most people in the mornings feel a bit irritable. I felt like that several times a day.
“Even though you’re falling asleep a lot, you’re not actually getting much sleep, you feel tired all the time.”
Caley being examined
When Caley started college, teachers finally noticed that something was not right and told her parents that she needed to get it sorted out.
She went to hospital and got medication, but was still not actually diagnosed with the condition and the medication didn’t work.
She said: “I still had to deal with it, as I was getting no other support and because the medication didn’t work I just left it, I thought I would just have to live with it.”
But when Caley had her daughter Olivia at the age of 24, she demanded to be examined properly and was referred to a hospital in London – but even then she only came back with a misdiagnosis.
Luckily when the young mum moved to East Grinstead and applied for a job at Queen Victoria Hospital, she was given a proper assessment and was finally diagnosed.
She is now a sleep coordinator at the Sleep Disorder Centre and is able to help others who have similar sleep disorders and, thanks, to finally being on the right medication, she can now make it through the day without needing to take a single nap.
But even though she relies on the medication to be able to work, she still has to pay up to £40 a month for it.