Newnan, Ga. (August 27, 2013) – Newnan resident Kareema Wilson, 18, often found herself falling asleep at the most inconvenient of times: while taking notes in class, talking with friends, or even standing at the bus stop. Diagnosed with narcolepsy - a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness – when she was in third grade, Wilson fights the constant battle to stay awake; however, treatment has made keeping her eyes open a little easier.
“I wasn’t even tired, and I would just fall asleep while doing my work at school,” said Wilson. “I would wake up to a friend tapping me on the shoulder, my notes would be chicken scratch, and I would have no clue what was going on. It became an everyday thing.”
The school nurse encouraged Wilson’s parents to take their daughter in for a sleep test. Doctors at the Piedmont Sleep Center at Newnan determined that Wilson did, in fact, have a sleep disorder. Wilson’s test revealed that she falls into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in less than five minutes. For most people, REM occurs at least an hour or more into one’s sleep cycle.
“Finding the best treatment for Kareema required some flexibility and determination,” said Vijay Patel, M.D., medical director at Piedmont Sleep Center. “There’s no cure for narcolepsy right now, but we work with patients individually to find out what works best in managing their symptoms.”
For Wilson, doctors at Piedmont Sleep Center prescribed medication. Although the medication has helped her, Wilson has had to increase her dosage on a yearly basis for the medication to continue to work. She also has resorted to taking naps during the day to avoid falling asleep at random times.
“When I’m on my medication, I feel more focused,” said Wilson. “When I’m not, I can just fall asleep anytime, anywhere. I can’t pay attention because my body just wants me to close my eyes and go to sleep. It’s essential for my education because I want to be alert in class.”
No longer falling asleep in class regularly, Wilson is now a sophomore at Spelman College. With help from her care team at the Piedmont Sleep Center, Wilson is able to receive specific accommodations for school, if necessary, to keep her alert. Because a warm environment encourages Wilson to fall asleep, her classrooms must be air conditioned and her dorm must have a refrigerator for easy access to cold drinks.
“Narcolepsy is more like a disorder that one must constantly deal with rather than a disability that can be completely controlled,” said Wilson. “I feel more active now and can pay attention more easily. In classes and meetings, I’m engaged in the conversation. Before, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Sleep studies at the Piedmont Sleep Center record what happens to the body during sleep to determine the cause of sleep problems. During a sleep study, a technologist records biological functions such as brain wave activity, eye movement, muscle tone, heart rhythm and breathing via electrodes and monitors placed on the head, chest and legs.
For more information about the Piedmont Sleep Center, visit piedmont.org.