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a woman with narcolepsy sleeping on a couch and dreaming about a conversation she's having with a man talking

Half Asleep but Still Dreaming

Each day that I live with narcolepsy, I am learning how to better describe so many of the bizarre symptoms that I experience on a day to day basis. The idea of being half asleep, but still dreaming is something that has taken me a very long time to understand and articulate to those around me.

I have experienced sleep paralysis a number of times, which is a sensation I would not wish upon my worst enemies. But somehow this phenomenon I was experiencing in my daily naps was very different from that familiar feeling of being paralysed in my body upon waking.

Quick Quiz

True or False: About 50% of people with narcolepsy have hallucinations and vivid dreams.

When dreams meet reality

Each day when I lay down to have my scheduled naps, I never actually feel as though I have fallen asleep. I can hear everything going on around me; people talking, cars driving by, even the rain falling on my roof. I can’t talk, or move, but unlike sleep paralysis, in this situation I feel like I am making the choice to ‘stay asleep’, not being trapped inside my body.

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If I stay in this state long enough my dreams begin to intrude on whatever is happening around me, and this is the part that feels so bizarre to experience.

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Was it real or just a dream?

Let me give you an example...the other day I was asleep on the couch after lunch, which is a very normal daily occurrence for me, and I heard my partner start talking to me from the other room. I was too tired to respond so I just let myself lay there in my sleepy state and figured he would realise eventually that I was asleep and not just ignoring him.

For some reason on this day, it was taking longer than usual for him to realise I was sleeping, and so my brain started forming my dream around what he was telling me. I thought I had woken up, walked to the kitchen, and continued the conversation, when in reality I was still fast asleep on the couch!

I woke up so confused because in my mind I didn’t remember going back to the couch to sleep. It was so vivid I could recount every detail of the conversation, and the smallest details like my dog sitting at the window tilting her head at me. But none of it was real. It took me bringing it up with my partner later to find out that actually I had never gotten up, or spoken to him. In fact, he came into the lounge room after I hadn’t replied to find me snoring on the couch as usual!

No longer confused

The first few times this happened, I was, understandably, very disorientated and confused. However, I know a few more things about my narcolepsy now, and the strange ways it can present itself, and so I know that in times like this I just need to trust those around me and ask them if any of it was real, or if I was just half asleep and dreaming.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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