Woman with condition where laughing sends her to sleep nearly drowned in pool
A woman who falls asleep when she laughs almost drowned in a pool and regularly takes naps in nightclubs.
Bella Kilmartin was diagnosed with the chronic sleep disorder narcolepsy when she was just a teenager after falling asleep in exams at school.
To add to her troubles, the 24-year-old also has cataplexy – a sudden weakening of her muscles triggered by strong emotions.
In her case, it’s caused by laughing.
Pharmacy dispenser Bella can often be spotted taking a nap in nightclubs when out partying with friends or even catching some sleep on her breaks at work.
Laughter has the ability to send her entire body to sleep in such a way that can be dangerous.
One time she was chucking to herself in a swimming pool on holiday when she fell unconscious.
The Birmingham woman said: “It’s more when its something that I wasn’t expecting to be funny.
“It’s more than a little giggle – it’d be something sudden when I wasn’t expecting to be laughing.
“I lose control of all of my muscles and they go all weak, but only when I laugh.
“My knees go weak, my head droops, and I’m fully conscious and aware and able to hear everything that is going on but just can’t move my body at all.
“There have been many times that I’ve knocked a hot cup of tea all over myself but couldn’t move my arms or anything to stop the tea going all over me.
“I can’t control where it happens, so it can be quite scary. I don’t mind it happening if I’m somewhere safe, like sat down. If I’m somewhere unsafe, it’s quite scary.”
Bella suffered from symptoms of narcolepsy for two years before she was diagnosed.
Originally she put her tiredness down to being stressed with her A levels.
Struggling to keep her eyes open in class, she’d often miss huge chunks of her lessons and wake up to find illegible scribbles in her workbook.
She said: “I was really tired all the time and falling asleep really early at like 7.30pm, but I thought it was just due to extra work with A levels and all my friends were tired too.
“Then I started to fall asleep in lessons, and I also had other symptoms like vivid nightmares and sleep paralysis. I didn’t realise they were all associated with each other.
“The symptoms started to get worse and I was having to nap during my free periods. During one of my exams, I almost fell asleep – I was struggling to keep my eyes open for about half an hour.
“That was one of the real signs to me that there was something seriously wrong as I was always so motivated to do well at school.
“I always got so nervous before exams so I thought adrenaline would kick in and wake me up, but it didn’t.
“Going through this whilst doing my A Levels was the actual worst time for it all to happen. I had teachers that helped but I couldn’t stay awake in lessons and really struggled.”