Tips for Managing Day-to-day with Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that impairs the brain’s ability to control sleep and wake cycles. It causes a range of symptoms including sleep paralysis; hallucinations; excessive daytime sleepiness; and cataplexy or sudden muscle weakness due to strong emotions like fear, anger, surprise, or laughter.

Fortunately, narcolepsy can be successfully managed day-to-day till they are fully resolved. Here are a few methods you can employ to do this.

Take strategic naps

Naps are excellent methods for managing narcolepsy, unlike other sleep conditions like obstructive sleep apnea. They also help to reduce sleepiness for a few hours, thus limiting your daytime sleepiness. 

We recommend that you take at least 20-minute naps at strategic times during the day. We also advise that you avoid taking naps in the evening as this may cause insomnia.

Do not take caffeine in the afternoon or evening

Caffeine has been found to improve wakefulness and eliminate fatigue. So, you may be inclined to turn to a caffeine brew to avoid daytime sleeping.

While it may help you to stay awake, taking caffeine in the afternoon or evening can cause fragmented sleep – a symptom of narcolepsy – thus worsening the disorder. As a result, limit your caffeine consumption once it is past noon.

Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!

Regular, moderate workouts can improve wakefulness and sleepiness during the day and night respectively. This is possible because exercising keeps you active and tells your body it needs to be awake. Hence, it improves your daytime functioning and facilitates better nighttime sleep.

Keep a consistent sleep schedule

Another method to employ is a consistent sleep schedule. That is, you need to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends.

You can improve your sleep quality with the following:

  • Remove electronics and other items that may keep you up late or distract you from sleeping, such as televisions, smartphones, radios, computers, etc.
  • Keep your room at an optimum temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Eat about three or four hours before your bedtime. Also, avoid spicy or high-fat foods.
  • Keep your room dark to prevent light from disrupting your circadian rhythm. Use a face mask or blackout shades to further prevent light from disrupting your sleep.

Avoid alcohol and smoke

Alcohol is effective for improving sleepiness. However, it only helps you for a few hours, after which it disrupts your sleep.

Additionally, smoking has been linked to sleeping problems, including fragmented sleep and insomnia.

Consequently, avoid alcohol and smoking.

Be mindful of what you eat

Certain foods make some people sleepier than others.

For instance, a large or carbohydrate-heavy meal can make you sleepy, which can be difficult for people with narcolepsy. Hence, eat a low-carb, high-protein diet which improves alertness.

We advise that you track the meals you eat and when you eat them to determine their effect on daytime sleepiness. This will enable you to identify the foods that work best and the ones that don’t.

Do not engage in stressful activities

Engaging in stressful activities is anti-sleep, which can worsen your condition. To this effect, you want to avoid activities that may upset you or stress you out. These include paying bills at night and arguing with your partner.

Narcolepsy is a debilitating disorder that impacts every aspect of your health and life. If the above tips are not effective, we advise that you visit your healthcare provider.

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