Living with Narcolepsy

Living with narcolepsy can be difficult, but learning as much about the sleep disorder as possible will help you and those around you to understand how you feel.

Finding a narcolepsy support system can help patients and families deal with the practical and emotional effects of the disease, possible occupational limitations, and situations that might cause injury. A variety of educational and other materials are available from sleep medicine to narcolepsy and their families.

Individuals with narcolepsy, their families, friends, and potential employers should know that:

  • Narcolepsy is a life-long condition that requires continuous medication.

  • Although there is not a cure for narcolepsy at present, several medications can help reduce its symptoms.

  • People with narcolepsy can lead productive lives if they are provided with proper medical care.

  • If possible, individuals with narcolepsy should avoid jobs that require driving long distances or handling hazardous equipment or that require alertness for lenghty periods.

  • Parents, teachers, spouses, and employers should be aware of the symptoms of narcolepsy. This will help them avoid the mistake of confusing the person's behavior with laziness, hostility, rejection, or lack of interest and motivation. It will also help them provide essential support and cooperation.

  • Employers can promote better working opportunities for individuals with narcolepsy by permitting special work schedules and nap breaks.

A study carried out by the State University, Pennsylvania, discovered how badly sufferers' lives could be affected by narcolepsy.

Fifty eight percent of participants recalled how they had fallen asleep during class and their school results had been adversely affected; 36 percent had been thought lazy or indifferent by their teachers. At work, 92 percent had experienced problems; 24 percent were forced to leave their jobs; and 18 perecent were fired because of their illness. In relationships, 72 percent reported that narcolepsy had caused problems in their families, and 20 percent indicated that it had contributed to their divorce. Sexual problems were also common, including loss of libido and impotence. Unsuprisingly, many sufferers reported low self-esteem, chronic anxiety, and depression.

This study is a good illustration of the effects of narcolepsy on a person. Each narcoleptic has their own set of challenges they face while living with narcolepsy, and it is important that those around them are willing to give them the support that they need.

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Source and Suggested Reading:

Griffey, Harriet. Sleep Well Tonight! Sure-Fire Solutions for a Good Night's Rest. New York, New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1998.

Swanson, Jennifer. Sleep Disorders Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1999.