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Woman's Rare Condition Means She Falls Asleep When She Laughs

Claire Reid

| Last updated 

Woman's Rare Condition Means She Falls Asleep When She Laughs

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

A woman has a super rare condition that causes her to fall asleep when she laughs - which on one occasion meant she almost drowned.

Bella Kilmartin, 24, was diagnosed with narcolepsy when she was a teen, but she also has a condition called cataplexy which causes a sudden muscular weakness, triggered by strong emotions - in Bella's case, laughing.

This means that Bella falls asleep in all sorts of unusual scenarios, including nightclubs, while at work as a pharmacy dispenser and even a swimming pool while on holiday.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

Bella, who lives in Birmingham, said: "It's more when it's 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."

Bella was first diagnosed with chronic sleep disorder narcolepsy after having symptoms for two years, with her extreme tiredness initially put down to her being stressed during her A Levels.

She was officially diagnosed in 2015, and began to see a specialist which is when the linked condition cataplexy was discovered.

Bella said: "When the cataplexy initially started, the best way to describe it is I'd feel light headed when I laughed.

"Then it progressed into so that my eyes would flicker and my eyelids would go all droopy.

"As it has now progressed into full muscle weakness when I laugh, there have been so many incidents where I've hurt myself after losing control of my body.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

"My mum once had to hold me by the arms on the patio steps or I'd have fallen down them and cracked my head open.

"There's been too many times to count where I've been sat down, then fallen to the side and whacked my head off a radiator."

Bella also had to give up driving lessons in case she falls asleep at the wheel and she's fearful of pools after almost drowning while on holiday in Tenerife in 2016.

"Something funny happened - I don't even know what - and I ended up starting to laugh," Bella said.

"All of my muscles went weak and my head started drooping under the water.

"Luckily, my friend knew about my condition, so she swam over and literally had to hold my head above the water so I wouldn't drown.

"I wasn't even able to tread water as all of my muscles had gone weak. She had her hand under my chin to keep my head up and had to swim me over to the side of the pool.

"I was then starting to come out of it, because if I stop laughing, my muscles start to regain a bit of strength, but not straight away. I was trying to hold myself up on the side but even that wasn't working so my friend was literally just holding me up.

"It was terrifying at the time, and I'm very lucky she was there and able to hold me up.

"Even though I felt that fear of drowning, I couldn't stop it from happening so my body just continued to be weak. That was definitely the scariest time it has happened."

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

Bella has chosen to speak about her condition to raise awareness.

She added: "At first, I would never speak about my condition. I couldn't even say the words narcolepsy or cataplexy without feeling physically sick.

"I used to not tell anybody about it but now I'm pretty open with most people about my condition.

"I didn't know anybody with narcolepsy when I was diagnosed and reading about other people's experiences has really helped me so that's why I wanted to share my story."

Topics: UK, Health

Claire Reid
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