The Science Behind Narcolepsy

Question: What is narcolepsy?

Shelby Harris: So, narcolepsy is a disorder that affects many different areas of life.  So in typical patients with narcolepsy, they have something called “excessive daytime sleepiness.”  So, they’re very sleepy during the day.  Yet, at night, they’re still sleepy, but their sleep is very broken.  So we’ll see patients with narcolepsy, you’ll see the classic narcolepsy with cataplexy, as we call it.  When patients will have – they’ll just fall asleep, right away.  So, if there’s a loud noise, a strong emotion, happiness, anger, fear, can actually make their bodies shut down and have muscle weakness that they fall asleep.  Other patients it’s not that severe.  They’ll have a lot of muscle weakness.  

I have one patient who used to hear a loud noise when she was at work and her right side of her face used to become numb and weak.  So there are a lot of symptoms that happen with narcolepsy.  We’re not fully – we’re starting to learn what’s causing it.  There’s something in our bodies in our brain called hypocretin, and they’re seeing that people who have cataplexy, so that muscle weakness, those patients tend to have a lack of hypocretin and it decreases even more as they age.  So we don’t really know why it’s happening, but that’s one theory as to what may be what’s going on. 

Other things that happen in narcolepsy is they tend to have very vivid dreams.  So when they do fall asleep, when they take those really brief naps that are very refreshing, so even a five minute nap is completely refreshing for these patients, but the minute they go into sleep, they dream and they have very vivid dreams during the day and night.  More so then most patients do.  

Now narcolepsy is really hard though because they’re very tired during the day, they’re sleepy during the day and it’s managed mostly with medications.  So we use medications to help them sleep better at night and to stay away during the day.  But there are behavioral things you can do also by changing diet, exercise, having an actual nap schedule.  But it can be difficult because patients want to work.  They want to have functional lives and to have a discussion with an employer about being able to take a quick nap, it’s refreshing for them to be more energetic during the day, it’s actually a real problem so sometimes we’ll have to work with employers to help them see that narcolepsy is a real diagnosis.  

Families will often call patients lazy, so it’s really a disorder that affects not only the patient, but marriages, families, workplaces, it can really affect a  lot of people.

For patients with narcolepsy, a loud noise or a strong emotion can trigger the body to fall asleep instantly.

A map of America’s most famous – and infamous

The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity

Image: The Pudding
Strange Maps
  • Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
  • And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
  • If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist

Chicagoland is Obamaland

Image: The Pudding

Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.

Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).

The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.

The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.

How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."

‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'

Image: The Pudding

Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.

That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.

The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.

The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".

Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.

Royals and (other) mortals

Image: The Pudding

There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.

Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.

But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.

Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).

Freaks and angels

Image: Dorothy

The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.

It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.

Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...

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