Fighting daily exhaustion and bouts of slipping into sleep accidentally can be stressful and wear heavily on everyday life. But for those with narcolepsy, it is simply the way that life is. While doctors may prescribe medication for narcolepsy, there is no guarantee those drugs will work. On top of that, every drug used to help combat narcolepsy comes with a variety of side effects, and none of them will completely cure narcolepsy. Luckily, there are simple changes you can make to ease the burden of fatigue.
Stay on Schedule
Sticking to a regular program of going to sleep and waking up can help with narcolepsy. When a schedule is followed, the body begins to expect certain things to happen at certain times. If you go to bed at nine o’clock every night, your body will anticipate when it’s time to sleep, which can ease nocturnal sleep disruption. The hormones and chemicals that keep you awake will learn over time to lessen, and the ones that make you sleepy will increase, so that your body will be prepared to ease into sleep more naturally. Likewise, waking up at the same time every morning will incite the chemicals that inspire wakefulness, helping fight excessive daytime sleepiness.
Avoid Distractions That Keep You Up
Stimulants like caffeine should most certainly be avoided as evening closes in. Other things experts say get in the way of good quality sleep are smoking, alcohol, and large meals right before bed. While it might seem like a nightcap will help you sleep, it’s actually hurting you, because it interrupts the natural progression of sleep and provides poor quality sleep, so your body is less rested and prepared to battle daytime sleepiness the next morning.
Prepare for Bed
Rather than just stopping what you’re doing and getting straight into bed, start getting your body ready for sleep. Unintentional naps throughout the day mean your body may not feel like it needs sleep as much at night—another cause of poor quality sleep. But doing soothing exercises, like gentle yoga, or taking a hot bath can help the body start to calm down and wind down, ready to (hopefully) head through the cycles of sleep and actually stay in the deepest stage, rapid eye movement (REM) cycle, longer, making you more rested in the morning.
Make Your Bedroom Conducive for Sleep
Make sure your bedroom is an environment made for sleep. Experts say even watching TV in bed can get in the way of good sleep, as it makes your bed have dual purposes, rather than being strictly intended for sleep. Ensure the room is a temperature you can comfortable sleep in, whether that means bringing in a space heater in the winter or a box fan in the summer. Keep lighting low and calm, and keep the area clutter free to avoid distractions.
It can be tough dealing with narcolepsy on your own. Not only does it interrupt everyday things, like driving or social functions, but it can be embarrassing. The added stress and low self-esteem can make sleep even more difficult to attain, and stress is hard enough to handle without the added bonus of a sleep disorder. A support group can be a great source of comfort, as well as a place to find other people who know what it’s like going through life without control of consciousness.