I’m glad you wrote in, because in a few weeks you are going to have a new boyfriend on your hands! In fact, I wish more people were aware of how simply and effectively most sleep disorders are treated. All that is required is to get yourself—and your man—to a sleep specialist.
Your partner’s condition most likely is Narcolepsy—an inherited disorder that causes daytime tiredness and an uncanny ability to fall asleep at inappropriate times—while shopping in a supermarket, while eating a meal, or even—as you say—in the middle of a conversation. Narcolepsy often—but not always—is accompanied by a significant relaxation of muscle tone called “cataplexy” which occurs at the same time as the sleep attack. If the relaxation of muscle tone is sudden, a narcoleptic actually can injure him or herself by falling. Most patients can sense impending attacks, though, and learn to position themselves safely beforehand.
The symptoms you describe also are commonly observed in two other sleep disorders—severe Sleep Apnea and Central Nervous System (CNS) Hypersomnolence. If your boyfriend has sleep apnea, however, I suspect you would have mentioned his snoring—which almost always accompanies the condition. (Remember, snoring is not deep sleep! It only means a person is having a hard time breathing due to a half-closed airway!) CNS Hypersomnolence is suspected to be related to Narcolepsy. The major difference is that CNS patients do not show cataplexy or the presence of dreams (REM sleep) during nap opportunities.
What’s the solution? Make an appointment for your boyfriend to see a sleep specialist in your area, and be sure to go with him, as your sleep doctor will benefit from your description of the attacks. Your boyfriend most likely will have to spend a night in a sleep lab to properly diagnose his condition, but from that point on he will be on his way to much healthier, happier, fuller lifestyle—which is great news for both of you! All three of these conditions—Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, and CNS Hypersomnolence—are safely, effectively, and routinely treated in sleep centers. Get your boyfriend help! Even if he’s not excited about going to see a doctor at first (who is?), he will thank you in the long run.
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