Stunning Personal Trainer Whose Rare Condition Caused Her To Fall Asleep 16 Times A Day Reveals She’s Often Mistake For A Drunk
A woman who was constantly mistaken for a drunk because of a rare sleep condition has revealed that she’s managed to control the condition – by becoming a personal trainer.
Belle Hutt, 24, was diagnosed with narcolepsy after having a swine flu vaccination in 2009 – and would fall asleep suddenly up to 16 times a DAY.
The bizarre condition means she couldn’t hold down a job, drive, go out with friends – and even destroyed her relationship, as she’d regularly fall asleep on dates.
But Belle, from Oxford, says she’s finally managed to control her condition with exercise – and has started a career as a personal trainer.
Belle said: “A lot of times in public places I’ve been accused of being wasted, a woman asked me once if I had been drinking in the morning.
“Even my doctor asked me how much alcohol I was drinking when I went to see him for help.
“I would very rarely go out on my own, it’s very hard to explain and I do sound drunk and my eyes are dropping.
“As a child I was always into running and I knew when I ran I felt completely away of my narcoleptic self, I felt so alive.
“I realised that exercise was the best way to control my condition – so I needed a job that meant I was never still.
“I can schedule in 10 minute naps between my classes and then I feel fine.
“The more and more I worked out the more I felt awake and actually it eliminated my hallucinations and my sleep paralysis.”
Belle was diagnosed with narcolepsy when she was 17, after a swine flu jab left her feeling fatigue, exhausted and falling asleep in class.
Narcolepsy is a rare brain condition caused by the lack of a brain chemical called ‘orexin’ and causes sleep attacks, sleep paralysis, tiredness and hallucinations and can be triggered by an infection, psychological stress or hormonal changes.
Although her narcolepsy has been the reason her previous partners ending their relationship, Belle is now happy living in Amsterdam with her boyfriend Maikel.
She said: “Previous boyfriends have had a real problem with my narcolepsy. I didn’t want to lie in in a morning, I hate it , for me it’s terrible because I start hallucinating.
“When we used to go to dinner and I’d fall asleep and they would get really embarrassed and be horrible to me.
“Now I’m so glad I have found someone who is supportive and understanding. When I met him I told him about it and he was so chilled about it, he said ‘I just want to get to know you”.
“My mum actually made him come and live with us before we moved in together, she said: ‘You need to see what is like actually living with Belle- he did come and realised, not that I’m difficult but it is different.
“Whenever I fall asleep, he holds my hand and it just gives him the chance to watch football so he doesn’t mind.”
Belle credits Maikel and her mum with getting her through tough times with her condition.
She said: “I was at school and I started to really struggle – it would start in class and I couldn’t control it, it would happen maybe four times in every lesson.
“I was diagnosed quite quickly, the results came back that I had severe narcolepsy.
“My narcolepsy progressively got worse, I got hallucinations as well.
“Being in the dream state when you’re walking around or are you in your laptop you then start to hallucinate because you’re dreaming when you’re awake. “
Belle describes her hallucinations as ‘ very scary’ as they could be audio, optical and even physical- she vividly remembers the time she was convinced two men were in her bedroom.
With the situation getting worse it would become difficult from her to differentiate between reality and hallucinations which made her not want to go to bed.
She also filmed herself falling asleep out of curiosity.
She added: “I also get sleep paralysis so while everything was going on I couldn’t move my body and I was quite scared about what would be the next step with narcolepsy for me because it was just getting worse every day.
“The first two years of hallucinations were very difficult for me because I was reluctant to go to sleep , I hated going to bed because I was so scared I’d hallucinate again.
“So I was very reluctant to rest, and I was on more medication- I was trying to keep myself awake the whole time.
“I was also drinking a lot of coffee which is really not the way to go about it. Eating lots of protein and vegetables has really helped me a lot.“
Her advice is to ‘stay as much active as possible’ and says ‘you have narcolepsy and it doesn’t have you’.