3 Steps To Better Sleep w/ Narcolepsy

Updated: Apr 4



Getting restful sleep is one of the most difficult and most important things when you have narcolepsy. In this article I want to show 3 different strategies I use to help me fall asleep faster, sleep more peacefully and wake up feeling more rested in the morning.


Before we jump into that, I want to reveal some background info they may shed some light on other factors that I believe are responsible for some of my fatigue and restless sleep.


First let's talk about 2 main bodily systems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. For those of you that havent heard of these 2 systems here is a brief overview… (don't worry we will get to how this relates to narcolepsy, sleep & fatigue very soon)


The parasympathetic system is our rest and recovery system. This system allows our food to digest, nutrients to be distributed, our muscles to repair/ recover and our body to relax.


The sympathetic system is the opposing system that controls our fight or flight response. This response is useful for working out, competing in sporting events or responding to a life threatening situation. The fight or flight response is essential to human life but can become a problem if it is constantly active, raising our stress response to an unnatural and undesirable level. (Melinosky, 2019)


This is where the problems can arise.


The stress response kicks in any time it feels the body is threatened. This can be real physical threat or simply a psychologically perceived threat (Melinosky, 2019). An example of a perceived threat could be as simple as, "I see traffic ahead, there could be a crash. Now I am going to be late for work and my boss is going to yell at me." Now the entire rest of the drive you are feeling “stressed” aka the sympathetic nervous system in gear.


You can see how these small inconveniences in life can kick us into this response quite often and easily.


So how is this relevant to individuals with Narcolepsy? There is no direct correlation between the two that can be shown from my research but from my personal experience it can play a huge role in my ability to sleep and sleep restfully.


Personally, I realized that I was constantly worried about being fatigued, falling asleep, being ashamed of my narcolepsy and being antisocial. These thoughts were active the majority of my life, especially in public environments. It's difficult to feel safe in these situations and feeling unsafe will typically activate our fight or flight response to assist in any potential threat.


Here is a list of symptoms caused from a body being overstressed.


-Agitated, frustrated, moody

-Feeling overwhelmed & difficulty quieting the mind

-Low self esteem, depression

-Headaches

-Fatigue

-Brain Fog, inability to concentrate

-Poor Mood

-Anxiety

-Insomnia

(Marks, 2021)

Just to name a few.


Being overstressed literally depletes your brain of its energy, energy that it needs to be focused and alert. (Melinosky, 2019)


For me personally, this describes the entire spectrum of my issues; all of which I had declared as a symptom my incurable narcolepsy.


Obviously at this stage I am not downplaying the effects of narcolepsy nor am I saying this is the cause for everyone's symptoms but I do believe it is worth everyone's consideration.


To put it on simple terms being stressed and worried can cause those symptoms in your body. The question I started to ask myself was “is it possible that there are many external factors that are enhancing my symptoms but I don’t take notice because I always just blaming it on the narcolepsy?” This question was the question that really began to spark the change in my life...


So, let's focus on some of the things that I started to implement that have led me to personally rest better at night and feel more energized throughout the day.


Tip 1


Decrease your stress!


Stress is everywhere in the world and it's not going anywhere. With that in mind it is better to find strategies to manage our stress response as opposed to trying to avoid everything that may be stressful. With that said, if there is something in your life that provides no value and is stressful; cut it out! For me, the first step to dealing with my stress was just to realize in the moment the times that I was actually feeling stressed. I am far from being a Zen master but over the past year I have been able to start to change my relationship with stress and the things that trigger it.


One of the my biggest stress relievers has been social media fasting. Taking time away from my phone, all the comments and news that constantly bombard us was life changing. I want to save this full topic for another post because I think an in depth look at how social media actually effects our brain chemistry is really important. For now, just notice how you feel using social media and make some decision on how to best utilize it in your life.


A great and simple decompression method I have used is called box breathing. This technique has been shown to take your body into a parasympathetic state and its easy. You start by taking a 4 second breath in, hold for 4 second and slowly release for 4 seconds. Repeat this 5-10x until you feel calm. You can use this as many times during the day as you'd like.


It's also a good idea to really let yourself start relaxing about an hour before bed. That means turn off the tv, hide your phone for the night and make a glass of herbal tea if you want. Good activities to wind down the night are good conversation, soft relaxing music, journaling, reading ect. You choose what you like with the objective of letting your mind and body wind down.


There are also ton’s more articles on stress and ways to relieve it. Try to find what mechanisms help you manage it better.


Tip 2


Routines and rituals


The body loves routines, much more than you can imagine.


A study was done on individuals that work out at a set time every single morning. After 30 days of working out at the same time, something amazing happened. These individuals' heart rate started to increase just before the workout time. Their body was literally preparing to workout before ever stepping foot in the gym.


The internal clock is real, believe it!


This can work the same for sleep. Try to commit yourself to a sleeping schedule. That means when you go to bed and when you wake up. This will help your internal rhythm set itself so it knows exactly what it's supposed to do. It's also helpful to try to sync this with the sun but I will save more details on that for another article.


Another nightly routine that has helped me sleep deeper has been a nightly guided "body scan" meditation. A body scan is slightly different than your standard meditation in the sense that it walks you through relaxing every single little body part, one muscle at a time. You will be surprised how tight you feel and amazed how much more you are actually able to relax. Falling asleep after this is much easier and more pleasant. Go to YouTube and search "guided sleep body scan" and find one around 20 minutes to start.


These routines take time! Time to get used to and time to be effective. Give it time to work before you give up on it.


Tip 3


The bedroom is for sleeping...


Your brain will associate different environments with different activities, it makes decision making easier and cuts down on brain power.


With this in mind, keep your bedroom for sleeping only! Keep out your cell phones and tvs. I know entertaining yourself in bed is really comfortable and fun but you are confusing your body. This often leads to wandering thoughts while laying in bed, your brain is waiting to be entertained! KEEP THE DISTACTIONS OUT


Side Note - I do approve of one couple's activity that may occur in the bedroom 😉


Lastly, this seems like a simple & fast fix but I want to caution you, this takes time. It takes time to change your habits and it takes time to change your physiology. Knowing that, give it time to work (meaning months). Be patient and be kind to yourself during the process. Small simple progress every week leads to a big step forward after a year.


If you enjoyed this article be sure to join our Facebook group for more Natural Narcolepsy content - https://www.facebook.com/groups/naturalnarcolepsy



*Disclaimer: Information that is provided is based off credible sources listed below and based off personal experience. In no way am I claiming this information will cure or change any disease or symptom. I am not a doctor, and don’t pretend to be one online. Please do your own research and consult with your doctor before make any changes.


Marks, H. (2021, August 19). Stress symptoms: Physical effects of stress on the body. WebMD. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body.


Melinosky, C. (2019, August 8). Visual guide to your nervous system. WebMD. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-nervous-system-overview.




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HEY, I'M JERRY

After living on stimulants for 8 years, I decided to drastically change my approach to living with Narcolepsy. After 2 years of living off medication and working on my health I have never felt better. I hope these articles help you get to a fulfilled & energized life. 

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