Sleep Disorders in Film & TV Database

In June 2021, Project Sleep launched a new Sleep Disorders in Film & TV Database to track cinematic portrayals of sleep conditions and help support future research. There is currently no published research addressing media depictions of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders, as exists for other conditions like epilepsy¹⁻³, multiple sclerosis⁴, autism⁵, and Tourette’s syndrome⁶. If you are aware of film or TV examples not already listed on our narcolepsy graphic or other sleep disorder portrayals, please fill out the Sleep Disorders in Film & TV Database form.

Why Hollywood Matters

For many people, Hollywood’s depictions of a sleep disorder may be their only exposure to condition’s symptoms and impacts on daily life. Thus, medical professionals, sleep advocates and patient-driven organizations like Project Sleep must be aware of cinematic representations and join the conversation as much as possible.

Your Role in Progress

In an effort to collect information and help with future research, Project Sleep has created this platform for community members to submit examples of sleep disorder depictions in movies and TV shows. This is a simple action you can take toward holding the entertainment industry accountable for representations of sleep conditions like narcolepsy, sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome, etc. Together, we can help make meaningful change. Thank you for your support!

Other Topics You Might Like

On June 25, 2021, the Disney+ Series “The Mysterious Benedict Society” premiered with a main character portrayal of type 1 narcolepsy with cataplexy. Read our President & CEO, Julie Flygare’s review as a person living with type 1 narcolepsy with cataplexy.

On August 9, 2019, the feature film, Ode to Joy released in select theaters and via video on demand to rent at home in the United States. The film features a main character portrayal of narcolepsy with cataplexy, a neurological condition affecting 1 in 2,000 people worldwide.

Project Sleep proudly partnered with IFC Films and Ode to Joy Director, Jason Winer, to create a narcolepsy with cataplexy PSA. Please share with friends and family to raise critical awareness of narcolepsy today!

It seems that Hollywood has a surprisingly large percentage of cases of narcolepsy, a disorder affecting 1 in 2,000 people worldwide. Here’s Project Sleep’s graph charting major film & TV portrayals of narcolepsy over the years.

Narcolepsy Goes to Hollywood Videos: Is all awareness good awareness? Watch our interview with The Simpsons’ Executive Producer, Al Jean, about The Simpsons’ narcolepsy episode and Anna Marr, an actor and writer living with narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy Goes to Hollywood Toolkit: Download this toolkit for key insights on past Hollywood depictions of narcolepsy and action steps for building a brighter future!

Research References

  1. Kerson, J. F., Kerson, T. S., & Kerson, L. A. (1999). The depiction of seizures in film. Epilepsia, 40(8), 1163-1167.
  2. Baxendale, S. (2003). Epilepsy at the movies: possession to presidential assassination. The Lancet Neurology, 2(12), 764-770.
  3. Moeller, A. D., Moeller, J. J., Rahey, S. R., & Sadler, R. M. (2011). Depiction of seizure first aid management in medical television dramas. Canadian journal of neurological sciences, 38(5), 723-727.
  4. Zoller, H. M., & Worrell, T. (2006). Television illness depictions, identity, and social experience: Responses to multiple sclerosis on The West Wing among people with MS. Health communication, 20(1), 69-79.
  5. Draaisma, D. (2009). Stereotypes of autism. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1522), 1475-1480.
  6. Calder-Sprackman, S., Sutherland, S., & Doja, A. (2014). The portrayal of Tourette syndrome in film and television. Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 41(2), 226-232.
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