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Strange self-help treatment for a sleep disorder; nicotine

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There are numerous sleep disorders with the most common sleep disorder being insomnia. Others sleep disorders include sleep apnea, night terrors, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and a rare but serious disorder known as narcolepsy.

In one specific case, an observation was noted from the unconventional self-help treatment the client implemented. The client used *nicotine to stave off her sudden sleep attacks.

Sleep disorders and sleep problems

The client stated she experienced sleep paralysis since approximately 10 years old. She did not realize at the time it was a sleep disorder and assumed it was only ‘nightmares,’ until she was an adult and accidently came across the term ‘sleep paralysis.’

The client quickly identified with the term. She decided not to mention it to her physician as she prefers not to take medications. She concluded she has dealt with this disorder since childhood and can continue dealing with this disorder without any prescription medications. The emotional relief came once she understood there was a ‘name’ for this and she immediately felt at peace.

But what she later realized was that this disorder can include other symptoms such as cataplexy and the sudden urge to sleep at the most inopportune times. Again, she learned this by accident.

This client has an addiction to nicotine as a lifelong smoker. A chance occurrence revealed she would subconsciously smoke a cigarette when she began to feel the onset of a sleep attack.

She explained the revelation came when she was driving a vehicle to run quick errands with her toddler in the back seat strapped in a car seat. She had a tremendous urge to smoke a cigarette but hesitated because of the child in her car. From this hesitation, within seconds, she became almost lethargic and was searching for a safe place to pull over.

In her desperation, she grabbed a cigarette and immediately felt better after the first inhale. This chance occurrence made her realize she has been self-medicating with nicotine her whole life.

Tests revealed she has no trace of substance use/abuse (an illicit drug user) and there is no indication of a mental illness presently, nor any past episodes of mental illnesses. Additionally, client claims other classic symptoms of narcolepsy such as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) intrusion during stage 1 of the sleep cycle and RLS.

With this specific observation, many questions arise.


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