How To Cope with a Narcoleptic Attack

Falling Asleep During the Day Does Not Mean You're Lazy

Falling asleep during the day does not mean you're lazy. Having narcolepsy is NOT an illness but a condition. It’s not your fault – you can’t help falling asleep suddenly during the day.

Below are a few steps you can take to help yourself cope with it:

  1. If you are working - how not to lose your job: If you have been diagnosed as having narcolepsy and you start a new job, get some information leaflets about narcolepsy and give your new employer some to read. If your employer can understand why you keep falling asleep at your desk, he or she will hopefully be able to make allowances for you. But to be fair, you should agree to work longer hours to make up for your unproductive times (if possible).
  2. What if you're the boss - enlighten your staff? You have taken on a new member of staff…what is he or she going to think if the boss regularly has a snooze? If you don’t want your staff skiving off – after all, if the boss can do it, why shouldn’t they - tell your employees at the time of their interviews. A new employee will probably have questions, e.g. what should he do, etc.? Reassure him that there is no need to panic, that you will come out of it in a few minutes.
  3. When you feel sleepy, should you try and fight it? As narcoleptic attacks can happen any time of the day, you may be trying to concentrate, then suddenly without warning, you can’t keep your eyes open. What should you do? Try to ignore it and fight to stay awake or give in to it and if possible (if you have an understanding boss), go into a quiet room and have a little nap? You may find it best to give in to the overpowering desire to fall asleep or the drowsiness may continue for the rest of the day. With some narcoleptics, a five-minute nap will solve the problem while others need much longer. What is best for you? Only you can answer that--you must do what is best for you.
  4. Could going on medication be the answer? Unfortunately, once narcolepsy has been diagnosed, that’s it – it’s not going to go away. To date, there is no cure for it, but in many cases, the symptoms can be lessened with medication. However, quite often the dosage has to be upped because you may become tolerant to the medication.
  5. Besides an overwhelming desire to sleep, what else could you have to cope with? Some narcoleptics also have cataplexy. This is when the person will fall to the ground in a helpless heap and be unable to stand up again until the attack has passed.
  6. What causes someone to have a cataplexic attack? Cataplexy will occur in some narcoleptics when they feel some strong emotion. Emotions = feelings. It could be a feeling of sorrow or joy or even just having a good laugh, and the person will literally fall to the ground. What happens is…they lose control of their muscles.
  7. What help if any does the person having a cataplexy attack need? Providing the person is in no danger, i.e. if it happens outdoors, he is not going to be run over by a motor vehicle, you don't need to do anything. If the person is any kind of danger, i.e. if he is near machinery, he must be moved away from danger immediately. He or she will come out of it eventually. But although the person appears to be completely out of it, he is still fully conscious and able to see and hear everything.
  8. How does the narcoleptic feel about him or herself after a narcoleptic attack? While the overwhelming sleepiness is taking over, he or she will feel helpless. Then, after the sleepiness has passed, there is a feeling of frustration and guilt. This feeling of guilt is not necessary as what has happened is not his fault. But it is human nature to worry and have feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
  9. Where can you find out more about narcolepsy? Narcolepsy is a condition that can affect anyone; it has nothing to do with age, sex, race or creed and it affects everyone from teachers to truck drivers – princes to paupers.

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Hi Novi
It is good that your colleague has a concerned friend like you. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to help him. It is well known that drugs while being helpful when first taken will become ineffective in time as the body gets used to it, so the dose may have to be increased. Thankfully new drugs are being developed but as yet are not available until 2008.
The only way Novi you can help your colleague is to watch out for him. Make sure his going to sleep does not put him any danger. I know from experience that having someone who understands what's going on does help.
And as for your co-worker falling asleep in meetings etc there goes the story of the life of all Narcoleptics.
I have a video of a Narcoleptic girl. It's only one hour, but I've never been able to watch it all the way through lol.
Finally if your friend has not done so already - encourage him to join a Narcolepsy Support Group. It does help to meet other people who also have Narcolepsy.

By Eva Moffat

I have a narcoleptic co-worker that has become addicted (i think) to ephedrine-based drugs. We are working in a very energetic environment and it seems this condition gives him more pressure. He falls asleep in meetings, training, etc. How do you think can I help him?

By novi widayanti