You awoke to the sounds of the alarm, the radio, the smell of coffee, and the buzzing of your phone. You use everything available to wake up in the morning. You can’t afford to lose another job because you’ve overslept.
You’re still rushing to get ready, and the cold-shower-trick doesn’t wake you as much as it leaves you shivering and cranky. You can live with some shampoo in your hair.
You head to court. It’s not your normal routine, but you need to take care of that ticket. You were only at the light for a moment. It had been a hard day at work, and the heat had just really started cranking on such a cold day. It’s not like you had RUN a traffic light. You were at a complete stop. The officer who happened to be sitting behind you just really didn’t understand how you could have zoned out in such a short amount of time. The sobriety test was humiliating enough without the ticket.
The good news is that you were able to barter down your traffic “violation” with a promise of driving school. The bad news is that you’re going to have to pay the contempt of court fine. The bailiff shouldn’t have been so forceful when he woke you. It’s really his own fault that you hit him. You’re easily startled.
You made it through work. That proposal had to be rewritten, but you made the deadline. It seemed fine yesterday, but how did you miss so many typos? Oh, well. Done now, and on to a glass of cabernet. Must remember to be careful with the santuko. The garlic needs to be paper-thin, but that knife is sharp. Another trip for stitches is the last thing that you need today. A sizzle tells you that the olive oil in the sauté pan is just about ready…
…At least the fireman was cute.
Not really so funny, is it? And not really so rare, either. Narcolepsy in some form affects about 1 in 2,000 people. Many go undiagnosed. Most see the first symptoms in their teens, but that isn’t a hard rule. Two of the most common symptoms are excessive sleepiness and a loss of muscle control (or cataplexy), but others may experience hallucinations, sleepwalking, or any of a host of other sleep-related symptoms.
As you can see, having narcolepsy comes with a set of inherent dangers, and there is no cure. There are a variety of treatments and medications that can help, but there are some things that you can do right away to help lead a normal life.
Your first step is to seek a diagnosis. If you think that you have a sleep disorder, try taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale Test. While it is not a professional diagnosis, it is a valuable tool to help determine whether or not to seek a doctor’s advice. Kind of like a high fever and sore throat. Check and check; time for some antibiotics.
Step two is evaluating your lifestyle. Is your addiction to diet soda impacting your ability sleep properly? Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine have all been shown to interfere with sleep. So have many over-the-counter medications. While it may be inconvenient and you may miss the taste, your diet can play an important part in managing your sleep.
Step three is documenting your life. If you need to work on a large project, try to break it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. Become a note-taker. Not only will it help you to track your progress, it can become a great tool for managing your narcolepsy. You may find that certain foods, situations, or activities trigger a rash of symptoms. You’ll now have a journal that you can share with your doctor, and a reminder of what to avoid.
While certainly not the final step, the last we will impart for today is to SHARE! Your coworkers can help you to stay caught up at work. Your fellow students will surely share some lecture notes. Sharing with others makes having narcolepsy a part of who you are, like having blonde hair or being left-handed, and less of a parlor trick. If things work out with the fireman, he should be willing to drive. And who knows, he may be pretty handy with a Japanese chef’s knife.