‘Ev­ery time I laugh or have an or­gasm I fall asleep...’

MUM’S RARE MED­I­CAL CON­DI­TION IS NO JOKE

Daily Star Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - ■ EX­CLU­SIVE by FELIC­ITY CROSS

ONE woman’s rare med­i­cal dis­or­der is no laugh­ing mat­ter…

Jessica Southall “falls asleep” if she ex­pe­ri­ences strong emo­tions.

The 20-year-old mum can nod off while gig­gling or even while hav­ing an or­gasm.

Poor Jess gets so ex­hausted she has to sleep for up to 13 hours ev­ery day.

Her con­di­tion – nar­colepsy with cat­a­plexy – means her mus­cles to­tally re­lax when it kicks in, mak­ing it look as though she is kip­ping.

Jessica even suf­fered her de­bil­i­tat­ing “sleep at­tacks” while she was in labour with her daugh­ter Briella, now a year old.

She al­ways has to make sure she is sit­ting down if she wants to watch some­thing funny on TV.

Jessica, from Not­ting­ham, said: “One minute I’ll be there in stitches laugh­ing my head off, not able to stop…

“The next mo­ment my head is on my chest or I’m ly­ing on the floor.

“I’m fully awake – I can hear ev­ery­thing but I can’t talk and I can’t move.

“I can’t re­spond or snap out of it un­til the emo­tion stops. To any other per­son it looks like I’ve fallen asleep.

“It hap­pens when I or­gasm too. When me and my part­ner were first dat­ing it was near enough ev­ery time.

“I just had to ex­plain to him that it’s only go­ing to hap­pen when he makes me feel at my very best. But it’s not ideal.

“It might sound funny – and I do try to be light-hearted about it – but it’s hor­ri­ble re­ally.” Jessica be­gan to get ex­treme ex­haus­tion aged 15.

She found her­self fall­ing asleep in lessons, on the bus to school and even in the mid­dle of con­ver­sa­tions.

Jessica suf­fered her first cat­a­plexy at­tack, where her mus­cles re­lax and go weak, at the age of 16.

She was car­ry­ing two cups of tea when her aunt told a cheeky joke.

It made Jessica laugh so much she in­vol­un­tar­ily dropped both the steam­ing brews when her hands “went to sleep”.

Soon her chin was drop­ping to her chest ev­ery time she gig­gled or heard a joke.

A fit of laugh­ter would see her col­laps­ing on the floor in a heap.

Months of tests and scans re­vealed she had nar­colepsy, a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion which af­fects the brain’s abil­ity to reg­u­late its nor­mal sleep-wake cy­cle.

She was also di­ag­nosed with the re­lated con­di­tion cat­a­plexy – sud­den mus­cu­lar weak­ness trig­gered by strong emo­tions such as laugh­ter, anger and sur­prise.

A com­bi­na­tion of the two means she falls asleep when she laughs, cries re­ally hard, or ex­pe­ri­ences ex­treme plea­sure.

Jessica added: “At my worst I was col­laps­ing ev­ery time I laughed.”

“I’ve learned – I know my body now so if I’m go­ing to laugh I’ll grab some­thing to hold on to so when my mus­cles get weak I’ll be okay.”

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