Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Narcolepsy Definition:

A condition in which a person has an overwhelming need to sleep and will fall asleep virtually at any time of day or any place

Related Terms: Parasomnia, Cataplexy

Justice Maczko of the Supreme Court of Canada quoted a neurologist testfying at trial in using these words in Baker v Guildbride:

"Narcolepsy is a condition in which a person has an overwhelming need to sleep and will fall asleep virtually at any time of day or any place. This condition does not remit but may fluctuate in severity and people learn to cope with it and it may go dormant... Over years, sometimes one, sometimes ten, this condition leads to cataplexy in three quarters of the patients with narcolepsy."

In Bégin v The Queen, Justice Pierre Archambault of the Tax Court of Canada used these words at ¶6, partly adopted from medical literature published by the Canadian Medical Association:

"Narcolepsy is defined as a sleep disorder, the symptoms of which include sleep attacks and temporary paralysis.... 

"There are four classical symptoms: excessive daytime sleepiness with attacks of irresistible sleep, drop attacks (cataplexy), sleep paralysis, and sleep-related hallucinations. Many patients with narcolepsy do not have all these symptoms, but all narcoleptics have excessive daytime sleepiness - the tendency to fall asleep quickly when the environment is quiet or nonstimulating.... 

"All patients with narcolepsy have excessive daytime somnolence, and most develop sleep attacks over the course of many years."

In Smith v Chrysler, Justice Gilman of the United States Court of Appeals adopted these words to define narcolepsy:

"... a sleeping disorder of unknown etiology characterized by recurrent, uncontrollable, brief episodes of sleep, often associated with hypnagogic hallucinations, cataplexy, and sleep paralysis."

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders based in Bethesda, Maryland (USA)

"Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system characterized by the brain's inability to control sleep-wake cycles. At various times throughout the day, people with narcolepsy experience irresistible and sudden bouts of sleep, which can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

"In narcolepsy, sleep episodes can occur at any time. People may unwillingly fall asleep while at work or at school, when having a conversation, playing a game, eating a meal, or, most dangerously, when driving an automobile or operating other types of machinery."

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