Healthcare Tips

Actor Isaiah Washington Leads Effort To Raise Awareness Of Narcolepsy

April 02, 2017

Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington is being featured in a series of public service announcements aimed at raising awareness of narcolepsy, the Narcolepsy Network announced today.

Washington, who stars as Dr. Preston Burke on ABC's hit series Grey's Anatomy, is working with the Narcolepsy Network to increase understanding of the sleep disorder that affects approximately 200,000 men and women and children in the U.S.

"Due to my role, I have been exposed to many difficult health disorders that people must deal with everyday of their lives," Washington said. "A close friend of mine has narcolepsy, so I have seen how devastating it can be to the quality of life of those who suffer with it. While we all know what it's like to have a bad night's sleep, most of us can't imagine what life would be like if that happened every night. People living with narcolepsy need to know they are not alone and that they can get help."

Washington has filmed three public service announcements that are being distributed as part of National Sleep Awareness Week, which this year takes place from March 27 - April 2. It is an annual public educational, information and awareness campaign that coincides with the return to Daylight Savings Time on April 2, when clocks "spring forward" and everyone loses an hour of sleep. This is the time of year, more than any other time, when sleep will be on the minds of most Americans.

In addition to the public service announcements, the Narcolepsy Network has produced an educational brochure on the subject and will be distributing it to physician offices across the country. It will also be made available to the public via the website and toll-free number.

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of narcolepsy patients are undiagnosed.

The primary symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness, disturbed nocturnal sleep, REM disturbance such as sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations, and cataplexy, the most predictive symptom of narcolepsy. Cataplexy is the sudden loss of muscle control ranging from slight weakness or a drooping of the face to the complete loss of muscle tone. It is commonly triggered by strong emotional reactions such as laughter, anger or surprise. Narcolepsy is as widespread as Parkinson's Disease or multiple sclerosis and more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, but it is less well known. It is often mistaken for depression, epilepsy, or the side effects of medications.

"In most cases, patients need medication in order to lead a more normal life," said Dr. Michael Thorpy, Director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and an expert on narcolepsy. "New medications are becoming available and offer safer, more effective results than the older medications."

"We're very excited as an organization to have Isaiah Washington involved in this effort to educate the public," said Dr. Eveline Honig of the Narcolepsy Network. "For too long, narcolepsy has been a subject that has not received enough attention. It is critical for us to reach the public with signs and symptoms of narcolepsy so that those who are suffering from the condition can seek treatment. The good news is that there are newer and better treatments for narcolepsy. While there is no cure yet, symptoms can be controlled in most cases."

Individuals who want more information on narcolepsy are encouraged to visit narcolepsynetwork or to call 1-888-SLEEP-67. The narcolepsy awareness initiative with Washington has been made possible through the support of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

About the Narcolepsy Network

Narcolepsy Network is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. Founded in 1986, the Network's primary focus is to improve the lives of those with the life-long neurological sleep disorder, narcolepsy. The Network provides assistance to support groups dedicated to the thousands afflicted with this disease. The work of the Network goes beyond those diagnosed with narcolepsy.

The network is committed to educating the public and encouraging on-going scientific research in sleep medicine. For further information, visit narcolepsynetwork.

About Isaiah Washington

Isaiah Washington, a native of Houston, Texas spent four years in the Air Force before studying drama at Howard University in Washington D.C. His passion for theater led him to New York, where he became one of the founding members of City Kids Repertory, a theater group that performs at local high schools and community centers.

Washington made his first mark in cinema in gritty crime dramas and romantic comedies. He has been featured in four acclaimed Spike Lee films: Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, and Get On the Bus. Other film credits include: Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die, True Crime, Bulworth, Out of Sight, love jones, Dead Presidents, Stonewall and Strictly Business. His performance in the acclaimed Dancing in September earned him a nomination for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor. Recent films include: Ghost Ship, Welcome to Collinwood, Dead Birds and Hollywood Homicide, and Amateurs, an upcoming film.

Washington's televisions credits include guest-starring roles on NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Ally McBeal, New York Undercover, Living Single, Soul Food and Touched by an Angel. His current role as Dr. Preston Burke on Grey's Anatomy earned him the 37th NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.

He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, two sons and daughter.

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