Narcolepsy is a neurological condition that can have complex causes and symptoms.

You may experience excessive sleepiness during the day on a regular basis. If you have narcolepsy with cataplexy, you may also deal with sudden muscle weakness.

On top of sleep irregularities, it can be difficult for other people to understand your condition. This can affect multiple facets of your life, including work and relationships. Combined, these aspects can affect your quality of life.

Here’s what you can do to improve your day to day when living with narcolepsy.

Many people are diagnosed with narcolepsy during childhood. Some studies also suggest that younger people may be especially prone to the effects on quality of life.

Your symptoms may affect your schooling, given the risks of sleep attacks with excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and possible involuntary muscle loss.

Students with narcolepsy are more likely to:

  • fall asleep during class
  • be late to school
  • skip classes
  • turn in assignments late

Because of this, people with narcolepsy are often perceived as poor students. It’s essential to let teachers and the school nurse know so the school can offer accommodations.

Depending on you or your child’s needs, the possibilities include:

  • excused naps at the nurse’s office
  • extended time for assignments
  • seating near windows and other sources of natural light, whenever possible
  • sensory breaks

Such accommodations can help ensure that students with narcolepsy can still be successful at school.

Narcolepsy can also negatively impact your job. Not only is it possible to deal with bosses and co-workers who don’t understand the condition, but your workplace can also be a potential safety hazard.

Falling asleep while operating heavy machinery or having a cataplexy episode during a strong emotional response are just two possible scenarios.

You’re not obligated to disclose your personal medical details to your boss. But you may want to speak with your human resources representative about your condition. Your company can make reasonable accommodations, as required per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This can help increase your productivity at work. More importantly, it can keep you safe, too. Brief naps or short strolls around the office can be helpful strategies as well.

You may also have concerns about narcolepsy’s impact on the relationships you have with friends, family, and other loved ones. It can also interfere with romantic relationships.

EDS can make it appear that you’re:

  • “not interested” in the people you’re spending time with
  • not paying attention, due to issues with brain fog
  • grumpy or irritable
  • afraid to make commitments

Also, the risk of cataplexy may lead you to skip social events altogether.

With treatment, it’s possible to make and maintain interpersonal relationships while having narcolepsy. Educating your loved ones about your needs can help as well.

Narcolepsy can affect broader activities, such as work and social functions. But the negative effects on your quality of life can affect smaller everyday tasks, too.

These include:

  • driving, due to fears of falling asleep behind the wheel
  • cooking
  • using power tools
  • swimming, kayaking, and other water-related activities
  • running
  • contact sports
  • using gym equipment

People with narcolepsy also have an increased risk for weight management issues.

Obesity is more common in this condition, which may be due to metabolic factors. If you have a low metabolism, your body isn’t able to burn off calories from the foods you eat like it should. Over time, this can lead to excess weight that may be difficult to manage with diet and exercise alone.

Weight management issues in narcolepsy may also be linked to antidepressants that may be prescribed to help regulate your REM cycles. The most common types known for causing weight gain include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.

Another possible cause is the amount you sleep. If you already have a low metabolism or take antidepressants, excess sleep can further cut down on the amount of calories your body burns via normal everyday activities.

Excess weight can affect your quality of life with narcolepsy in various ways. If you feel that your weight is interfering with your day to day, talk to your doctor.

While the focus of narcolepsy discussions often revolve around symptoms and diagnosis, it’s important to not overlook your quality of life. Some studies suggest that quality of life issues with this condition can increase your risk for depression.

Careful planning, educating your loved ones, and seeking advice from your doctor can help. Despite disruptions in your sleepiness and wakefulness, it’s possible to boost your quality of life.