Help!! I need advice. I might be having blanks.

M.J. Stillman stillman at
Mon Dec 9 12:01:46 EST 1996

Sit Ubu sit!! (Good dog) wrote:
> Hi, I'm a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.
>    I have always wondered whether I might have something wrong:
> Whenever I'm in class or tired,  I experience extremely brief
> periods of discontinuity.  Sort of like the teacher is talking about
> something and then suddenly is at the end of his sentence.  I
> always thought that it was probably because I was tired or I
> was daydreaming- however- I couldn't remember what I could have
> been daydreaming/thinking about.
>      I have always had this feeling as far as I can remember- but
> simply ascribed it to daydreaming.

[minor snipping to save bandwidth]

Hi.  I'm not a physician, nor do I play one on TV/the 'Net.  However, as
a medical writer, I've read a number of articles on sleep disorders and
have a good familiarity with this area.  Like others, I hope persons
with more expertise will reply, but I offer you the following advice in
the hope it'll be helpful.

You might try a neurologist with expertise in sleep disorders.  He/she
may suggest a night in a sleep center, where you could be evaluated for
conditions like narcolepsy.  Your problem may not be sleep related, but
if it's still undiagnosed after a few tries, you might want to explore
this possibility.  Only relatively recently have sleep disorders been
viewed as medical (as opposed to psychological) conditions, and today's
medical training is only beginning to adapt to this.  (This is not a
"jab" at medical schools, just an opinion verified to me by many
neurologists, psychiatrists, GPs, surgeons, other physicians, and
medical school personnel I've encountered in my professional career.)

It sounds like you're experiencing "microsleeps" if you're only missing
a few words in your teacher's sentence.  This may be an attention
problem.  Can you be sure you're not missing entire sentences and then
"coming back" at the end of a much later sentence?  In other words, have
you verified you're not out for periods longer than "less than a
second," possibly by asking a classmate?  A psychiatrist or neurologist
will probably ask this in addition to asking many other questions about:
your nighttime sleep; the regularity of your sleep schedule; does diet
have any effect, etc...

I was going to go into detail about the symptoms of narcolepsy here, but
it may not be appropriate.  Still, if nothing else seems to be
appropriate, a referral to a neurologist with some experience in sleep
disorders might be helpful.

Please recall Mark Twain's quote: "If all you have is a hammer, all your
problems start to look like nails" (I probably didn't get it verbatim). 
Your problem could be any number of explanations.  This is just my
suggestion, one that may not be at the top of the list, but I hope it's
somehow helpful to you.

Best of luck.  (Nice e-mail alias, Ubu!)

-Mike Stillman

Michael J. Stillman, Ph.D.
DendWrite Communications
33 Dinsmore Avenue, Suite 602
Framingham, MA  01702
Tel/Fax: 508.875.7782

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