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Kate: "He has narcolepsy."
Constance: "He steals a lot?"
Sticky: "That's kleptomania. Mr. Benedict sleeps a lot."
Sticky and Kate informing Constance of Mr. Benedict's narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that alters the brain’s ability to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles (learn more here and here) and is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Known characters who suffer from this aliment are Mr. Benedict, Mr. Curtain and their parents.

This is a fact that the Mysterious Benedict Society has had considerable trouble with, as shown in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey when Mr. Benedict falls asleep while they are trying to escape. However, it has also worked to their advantage such as allowing them to trigger Mr. Curtain's narcolepsy so they could disable the Whisperer in The Mysterious Benedict Society.

What truly is narcolepsy?[]

With narcolepsy, it doesn’t matter how much sleep an individual gets at night, they will be perpetually exhausted. It is often said that life with narcolepsy is similar to going 48 hours without sleep and then trying to go about one’s normal day. Although EDS is sometimes described as “always feeling tired,” it actually presents itself through sleep attacks, where the urge to fall asleep comes very suddenly and typically when the person is sitting passively (reading a book, watching tv, or even driving a car). The amount of sleep attacks a person with narcolepsy (PWN) experience varies. Other symptoms of the disorder include cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and disrupted sleep and/or insomnia.

There are two types of narcolepsy: type one and type two. Type one narcoleptics often have low levels of a brain hormone called hypocretin (aka orexin). This hormone is responsible for wake maintenance; basically, it helps keep a person awake. Type one narcoleptics also experience cataplexy (a side effect of low hypocretin levels), whereas type two narcoleptics typically do not. Every PWN experiences EDS, but the other symptoms and their frequencies vary from person to person. There is currently no cure for narcolepsy, but research is ongoing. Symptoms may be alleviated through medication and lifestyle changes.

It is estimated that 1 in 2,000 people have narcolepsy, however, many of them go undiagnosed. It takes an average of 8-10 years from the onset of symptoms to finally receive a proper diagnosis. PWN are frequently misdiagnosed with other sleep disorders, depression, ADHD, and epilepsy. This is not to say that PWN do not also have those conditions, rather that the cause of many of the symptoms a person is experiencing likely truly stems from narcolepsy and not receiving a diagnosis of narcolepsy prevents many from getting the treatment, support, and care that they need.

Cataplexy[]

Cataplexy, one of the hallmark symptoms of the disorder, is a loss of muscle tone brought on by strong bursts of emotion, which results in a loss of voluntary muscle control. Cataplexy can be very mild, such as the eyelids drooping slightly, or very severe, resulting in a total body collapse. Despite common belief, a person suffering from cataplexy is actually fully awake during the episode. This, however, can make it all the more frightening, especially during a total body collapse because the person experiencing it literally has no control over their muscles.

Other symptoms[]

As mentioned above, other symptoms of narcolepsy include sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and disrupted sleep and/or insomnia. Sleep paralysis is actually common among the general population, with as many as 4 out of 10 people experiencing it at one point in their life. It occurs either as one falls asleep or wakes up. During sleep, a person’s body will essentially paralyze itself to prevent them from acting out their dreams, but because they are asleep, they don’t realize this. When sleep paralysis occurs, the person’s mind is awake, but their body is still asleep, resulting in the person being unable to move or speak. Often people will have hallucinations, such as an intruder in the room, or will feel a pressure on their chest like someone is choking them (which may cause further hallucinations). Ironically enough, another symptom of the people who are perpetually exhausted is disrupted sleep and insomnia, which could be caused by a variety of additional factors.

Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtain[]

Depictions in media range from wildly inaccurate to almost spot on, with Mr. Benedict’s and Mr. Curtain’s depictions falling more towards the spot on end of the spectrum; the only inaccuracy being that cataplexy does not cause the person to fall asleep. Sleep attacks very obviously do, but they are not caused by strong emotions like cataplexy.

While Mr. Benedict's cataplexy was generally caused by strong fits of laughter, Mr. Curtain's was usually caused by strong anger. As such, he generally wore obstructive glasses and traveled about in a wheelchair in order to disguise his condition. Students at The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened would be confused when his face would go red and he would seem to want to throttle them, only for the color to then drain from his face and for him to suddenly become calm.

Both of Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtains' parents, Anki Benedict and their father, suffered from narcolepsy. After obtaining access to their research papers, Mr. Benedict learned that they had been researching a rare plant called duskwort which they believed could cure their condition when properly mixed with certain other easily obtained chemicals. Mr. Benedict sought this plant in order to cure his condition but was pursued by Mr. Curtain, who hoped to use the plant's effects to send entire cities to sleep, as in its undiluted form, a mere trace of smoke from the plant could send an entire village to sleep.

Mr. Benedict later hoped to use the Whisperer to cure his narcolepsy, but his idea was thwarted when Mr. Curtain stole back the invention and he was forced to destroy it.

Upon learning of Mr. Benedict's narcolepsy, Constance Contraire stated that she didn't like it. She was told that nobody liked it, that it simply couldn't be helped. Ultimately, Constance refused to accept this. Using her own newly discovered power, and against Mr. Benedict's wishes to not jeopardize herself, she used her mental abilities to cure his narcolepsy at great, though temporary, pain to herself. Mr. Benedict suggested that she might be able to do the same for Mr. Curtain, though it was unclear whether Mr. Curtain would ever be willing to accept such help.

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