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An estimated 2,000 Americans and three million people worldwide have narcolepsy, but according to Ellen Wermter, a board-certified family nurse practitioner working in a sleep medicine clinic, it’s quite possible that it simply hasn’t been identified in 50 percent of the people who have it. Diagnosis is a big challenge, which is evidenced by the fact that on average, patients make six visits to a doctor or sleep specialist and experience a five to ten-year delay before receiving the correct diagnosis of narcolepsy.

Aside from it being difficult to diagnose and therefore underrecognized, Wermter explains how it’s also misunderstood by many people; rather than presenting as the sudden inability to stay awake and a dramatic collapse into a deep slumber, the primary complaint of those suffering from narcolepsy is “excessive daytime sleepiness,” which is identified in her sleep clinic using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

She also discusses a variety of other sleep disorders, many of which are commonly encountered in her clinic, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy. Tune in for the full conversation, and find resources by visiting the Narcolepsy Network, Project Sleep, the National Sleep Foundation, and local support groups.

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