Health: A range of behavioral changes play a significant part in managing narcolepsy.
When possible, frequent naps are an excellent technique for managing symptoms of narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy should try to take 20-minute naps at regular points throughout the day, says Dr. Dibra. Doing so should reduce feelings of sleepiness for the next few hours. Unless necessary, she cautions patients to avoid taking naps in the evening as this may lead to insomnia.
People with narcolepsy may turn to caffeine in an attempt to stay awake during the day. However, having caffeine in the afternoon or evening may lead to greater difficulty sleeping at night and even more fragmented sleep—a common symptom of narcolepsy. Dr. Roy advises people to minimize caffeine consumption after noon, especially if they’re naturally sensitive to caffeine.
Getting your steps in can do wonders for managing narcolepsy symptoms. “Regular, moderate exercise may help you feel more awake during the day and sleep better at night,” Dr. Dibra tells Health.
In a 2017 study from Sleep Medicine, researchers studied the effects of cardiopulmonary fitness—related to the hearts or lungs—on people with narcolepsy types 1 and 2. In both cases, more exercise is inversely correlated with the degree of sleepiness and frequency of cataplexy episodes experienced.