Wife has to remind husband they're in love every morning due to rare condition which causes memory loss

Marie Claire Dorking
·5 min read
Chelsea Turner has to remind her husband, Christopher Robin Turner, that they're in love every morning due to a rare condition that causes memory loss. (Caters)
Chelsea Turner has to remind her husband, Christopher Robin Turner, that they're in love every morning due to a rare condition that causes memory loss. (Caters)

A doting wife has to remind her husband every single morning that they're in love due to him suffering from a rare condition which causes memory loss.

Christopher Robin Turner, 36, from Victoria, Canada, suffers from narcolepsy, which causes vivid dreams called hypnagogic hallucinations and memory loss first thing in the morning.

In scenes reminiscent of rom-com 50 First Dates his wife, Chelsea, leaves notes next to his bed every morning telling him about his life.

The notes explain his condition and remind him of his name, job, his wife's name, the names of their two dogs, Fox and Panda.

Commenting on his wife's touching gesture, the window fitter, says: "She's been writing notes for about six years. It's really thoughtful of her and I really appreciate it because it's unexpected for someone to be so completely understanding.

Read more: Eating enough fruit and veg lowers risk of memory loss, says a new study

"The notes really help when I wake up in the morning because I know I'm not alone.

"There have been times where I've woken up and not recognised her or I'm wandering around the house working out who I am and she asks what I'm doing.

"A few times she said I've woken up and just stood there saying I don't know where I am.

Watch: Personal trainer details her battle with narcolepsy.

"It's so hard to explain it but I have two to three dreams per night and they're so realistic and vivid, I relive my past such as past relationships and when I wake up I'm stuck in the past and don't know where I am."

Turner says his dreams are so realistic if he gets stung by a bee within the dream, he can physically feel it.

"There have been dreams where I've walked for miles on gravel and when I wake up my feet are in pain," he explains.

"When I've been awake for a while, my body adjusts and I come back."

Read more: Mum who cannot remember wedding day or giving birth keeps track of her life with 34,000 photos

An example of one of the notes that Chelsea would leaves her husband in the morning due to his memory loss. (Caters)
An example of one of the notes that Chelsea would leaves her husband in the morning due to his memory loss. (Caters)

Turner admits that people often liken his condition to film 50 First Dates, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, which sees a woman suffering from short-term memory loss and starting her life afresh every day.

Turner was diagnosed with narcolepsy at the age of 16 when he crashed his car after falling asleep at the wheel.

"At the time, nobody knew about narcolepsy and the internet wasn't around," he explains. "But when I went to see a neurologist they said I was the most narcoleptic person they'd seen.

"I'm doing quite well with it now I'm older but if I sneeze I need to grab a chair and I make sure I'm sitting down a lot.

"If I get angry I could fall to the floor."

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Having met his wife at work 10 years ago, Turner says it was love at first sight with the couple moving in together immediately and marrying five years later.

"After the first date, that was pretty much it," he says.

"I was really honest with her when we first met. Lots of narcoleptics get into relationships that don't last because it's just as hard on the partner."

Christopher Robin Turner, 36, says his life imitates rom-com '50 First Dates' as he suffers from narcolepsy, which causes memory loss. (Caters)
Christopher Robin Turner, 36, says his life imitates rom-com '50 First Dates' as he suffers from narcolepsy, which causes memory loss. (Caters)

Read more: Sleep disorders in adults: Breathing, coping and everything you need to know

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times. It can also cause sudden muscle loss that can be triggered by strong emotions or loud noises.

The condition is pretty rare and while it's difficult to know exactly how many people have narcolepsy because many cases are thought to go unreported, it is estimated to affect about 30,000 people in the UK.

According to the NHS, in sufferers the brain is unable to regulate sleeping and waking patterns normally, which can result in:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness – feeling very drowsy throughout the day and finding it difficult to concentrate and stay awake

  • sleep attacks – falling asleep suddenly and without warning

  • cataplexy – temporary loss of muscle control resulting in weakness and possible collapse, often in response to emotions such as laughter and anger

  • sleep paralysis – a temporary inability to move or speak when waking up or falling asleep

  • excessive dreaming and waking in the night – dreams often come as you fall asleep (hypnogogic hallucinations) or just before or during waking (hypnopompic hallucinations)

While narcolepsy does not cause serious or long-term physical health problems, it can have a significant impact on daily life and be difficult to cope with emotionally.

The NHS says narcolepsy is often caused by a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin (also known as orexin), which regulates wakefulness.

"The lack of hypocretin is thought to be caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the cells that produce it or the receptors that allow it to work," the site explains.

"But this does not explain all cases of narcolepsy, and the exact cause of the problem is often unclear."

There's currently no cure for narcolepsy, but the NHS says making changes to improve your sleeping habits and taking medicine can help minimise the impact the condition has on your daily life.

Additional reporting Caters.

Watch: Mum opens up about suffering from narcolepsy.

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