A scientist has revealed she suffers from a rare neurological condition which causes her to collapse up to 100 times a day simply by laughing.
Claire Allen, 35, suffers from bouts of 'cataplexy' triggered by feelings such as fear, surprise or happiness.
The attacks, a rare symptom of the sleeping disorder narcolepsy, cause her to lose control of her body and collapse - although she remains conscious throughout.Each collapse lasts between 30 seconds to five minutes and at its worst Claire endured up to 100 attacks each day.A 'surprise' as simple as a chair in a room having moved to a different place or giggling at a shared joke could spark an attack and leave her helpless on the floor.FACTFILE Famous narcoleptics include Dad’s Army actor Arthur Lowe and actress Nastassja Kinski.It derives from the Greek words narke, meaning numbness or stupor, and lepsis, an attack or seizure.30,000 people in the UK suffer from it, with 70 per cent also having cataplexy.Many more may not be diagnosed due to symptoms such as daytime sleepiness and hallucinations.It can be wrongly blamed on laziness or drug use.It is thought to be caused by an irregularity in sleep hormones in the brain. But Claire has found a new lease of life after taking a new drug developed for narcoleptics called Xyrem. She now suffers a few attacks each month rather than several a day.
Claire, from Cambridge, described how she first loses her speech and vision before her body buckles - but she remains completely 'awake'.She said: 'Laughter is definitely the strongest trigger. 'The very first symptoms were my head nodding like a child trying to stay awake and after six months I was having full collapses where my body would go from under me.'A few years ago I stopped all my medications for a trial and I discovered the true extent of my symptoms - around 100 collapses a day.'I find that they happen more often during social contact with other people, perhaps because I'm more self-conscious.'There is no pain at all, but my speech will go first so I can't communicate what is happening, followed by my vision and then my body crumples beneath me.'It doesn't feel any different to being awake, except that I can't see or move at all as I'm in a total state of paralysis.'It's very odd for people around me to see me go down and then come round in a few minutes and be absolutely fine.'Narcolepsy causes severe disruption to sleep patterns and Claire, who works as a research scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, wakes up around 20 to 30 times each night.But the new drug Xyrem puts Claire into a deep sleep for three-and-a-half hours so she must take a second dose in the middle of the the night to get a full seven hours sleep. Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Dr. Claire Allen
Research Scientist with the British Antarctic Survey
Dr. Claire Allen - Photo from The Dailey Mail Article
Don't make me laugh! Scientist with rare condition collapses 100 times a day every time she gets giggles
By Andrew Levy
UPDATED: 04:05 EST, 4 November 2010
Be sure to Listen unitl the end :) Uploaded on May 16, 2007 Video footage by Claire Allen, British Antarctic Surveyof a massive glacial calving event in the Antarctic Peninsula; April 23, 2007; Shot from the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel icebreaker