Patients with narcolepsy typically have to seek various jobs with extremely flexible schedules. Many of them need naps or rest during the day, as well as an understanding employer. This implies that narcoleptic adults can ultimately perform any job but must completely have flexibility. Undoubtedly, in any work, there should be good structure & peer pressure to keep you motivated & getting work done. Still, sufficient freedom permits you to adapt to periods of extra fatigue when the narcolepsy is flaring up.
If you don’t know which field of work to select, this guide reveals some of the best jobs you can do if you are narcoleptic.
What Is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder distinguished by extreme daytime drowsiness & sudden attacks of sleep. Individuals with this health condition frequently find it extremely challenging to stay awake for long periods, regardless of the circumstances. The disorder can ultimately induce serious disruptions in your daily routine. Narcoleptic individuals may feel relaxed after waking up but then feel extremely sleepy throughout much of the day. Many patients diagnosed with this sleep disorder also experience uneven & interrupted sleep that can involve waking up repeatedly during the night .
Occasionally, narcolepsy can be linked to a sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy), which can be caused by strong emotions. The disorder accompanied by cataplexy is dubbed type 1 narcolepsy, while that without cataplexy is called type 2 narcolepsy.
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for narcolepsy at the moment. However, the good news is that some medicines can aid you in managing the signs of the disorder. Such drugs include fluoxetine (Prozac), Nuvigil (armodafinil), Provigil (modafinil), imipramine (Tofranil), methylphenidate (Ritalin), and Xyrem (sodium oxybate), among others. With these meds, you can function during the day without any narcolepsy problems. Though they don’t fully get rid of narcolepsy and you may still have sleep attacks, you’ll certainly feel much better than before.
Although all the mentioned meds are equally potent and effective, modafinil, as well as its younger brother armodafinil, is remarkably the safest and most effective remedy for narcolepsy. Modafinil is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat this sleep disorder . As a potent eugeroic, it eliminates fatigue & the desire to sleep, thus boosting productivity at work. As a nootropic used by healthy people, it offers various benefits, including increased alertness & focus, improved memory, heightened energy levels, etc. The drug is safe and well-tolerated if used as prescribed. It has a minimal risk of side effects, low potential for addiction, and most importantly, a long duration of action (up to 12+ hours).
Can People with Narcolepsy Work?
When you have narcolepsy, it can be difficult to stay alert at work. The condition can cause you to nod off suddenly at your desk, at the conference, or even on the assembly line. Learning various techniques to handle narcolepsy in your workplace can ultimately aid you in staying ahead in your career. If you choose to reveal your diagnosis to your employer, be ready to offer thoughts & solutions to help you be more efficacious at your job . Simple accommodations such as squeezing in a short nap during your lunch break or using a sit-to-stand desk may remarkably assist you to stay alert & productive in your workplace.
Aside from discussing the condition with your employer, taking a step further to tell your co-workers how narcolepsy affects you might make them more supportive. Several other simple recommendations to help you stay awake at work include the following:
- naps: Napping ultimately heightens alertness for 1 to 3 hours after waking up. Talk to your employer about taking a 16 to 25-minute nap during the work day. Doctors recommend scheduling brief naps between 2 p.m. & 3 p.m, the time most individuals struggle to remain awake. Napping may be more comfortable for those who are working from home;
- movement: Regular exercise can ultimately improve nighttime sleep & make you more alert in the daytime. At work, standing up & walking around every 25 minutes is also very helpful;
- sleep hygiene: Keeping a consistent sleep pattern can aid you in getting a better night’s rest. Also, remove electronic devices from the bedroom & avoid stimulants in the late afternoon or evening;
- diet: Try not to eat heavy lunches & large amounts of carbohydrates that can lead to drowsiness. Always eat smaller meals rich in fruits & vegetables. Avoid drinking alcohol, which can interrupt sleep.
Certainly, coffee or caffeinated beverages greatly aid some individuals with narcolepsy in maintaining their eyes open at work. However, others may experience anxiety, jitters, or a racing heartbeat after drinking coffee. If this beverage works for you, drink it early in the day to control sleep troubles.
Best Jobs for People with Narcolepsy
Anything that requires you to be constantly physically or mentally active is a good choice. Certainly, flexibility in work hours is something to look for. Though the desired job depends on the specific person & some other factors, you can consider these kinds of jobs.
Receptionist / Help Desk
Certainly, the phone is like a constant alarm clock; the loud noise will keep you vigilant. As a receptionist, you will be greeting visitors, assisting them to navigate through an office, and supplying them with some refreshments as they wait. Certainly, this job makes you busy & always moving.
Working full-time in a client service or call center is also great. You can have special accommodations, e.g., an additional 15 minutes of break that you can spread through the day. You may use this time to get up & walk around the floor to help you to stay awake. Being on the phone means you are speaking out loud to individuals, which also helps you stay alert.
Restaurants / Retail
With restaurant jobs, you’re also constantly moving. Positions that don’t require you to stand in one place or operate dangerous machinery are ultimately the best. These may include a server, host or hostess, busser (busboy/busgirl or back waiter), & bartender. Duties at work include providing exceptional customer service, greeting customers & present menus, making suggestions based on customer preferences, taking & serving food/drinks orders, up-selling when appropriate, arranging table settings, keeping tables clean, and more.
A retailer is tasked to greet customers & assist them. Other duties include recommending merchandise based on shoppers’ wants & needs and explaining the use & usefulness of merchandise to clients. Retail jobs can be found in a variety of industries, including electronics, clothing, & grocery stores.
Work from Home / Self-Employed
This kind of job takes a bit more self-discipline & willingness to work. If you can fit in narcolepsy sudden naps, all the better. Additionally, while working from home, you can work your schedule.
Narcoleptic adults may also consider nursing & teaching. Besides, working as a freelancer in the field of programming & things like that is best for an individual that can’t control their narcolepsy. Further, a lot of warehouse jobs are indeed excellent because you’re on your feet & moving all the time. Always look for a nice job that makes you active. A sedentary job will certainly make it harder to stay alert & awake.
Jobs to Avoid with This Diagnosis
Try to avoid applying for regular office jobs that require excessive sitting. Certainly, anything boring or working at night (night watch, guard, or security personnel) may not be for a narcoleptic patient. Also, anything to do with driving such as a truck driver, a pilot, a bus driver, a mail carrier, a forklift operator, a pizza delivery driver, etc., or operating dangerous machinery should be avoided.
Dangerous positions in which people’s lives are indeed in your hands are not on the list of jobs for people with narcolepsy. Working as a skyscraper construction worker, air traffic controller, surgeon, etc., should also be avoided. Just keep off from jobs in which you could hurt/kill yourself or even someone else due to microsleep or cataplexy.
The Verdict: Jobs for People with Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy at work is certainly the most discussed topic across the workspaces. For most individuals with this sleep disorder, nonetheless, not working isn’t an option; the most likely solution will be one you can willfully work out with your current employer. The types of jobs mentioned above work well if you have narcolepsy. Always look for a job that requires being active and not idling or sitting for extended hours. Nonetheless, you can still work any other type of job with the help of medications. Above all, modafinil has proved to be the most useful, safest, & most efficacious drug for treating narcolepsy & several other sleep disorders. It has a long half-life (up to 12+ hours), so you are sure to gain an edge in your workplace without worrying about falling asleep suddenly.
- Narcolepsy Fact Sheet. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Ninds.nih.gov.
- Approval Package for Provigil (Modafinil). Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Accessdata.fda.gov.
- At Work | Narcolepsy. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Healthysleep.med.harvard.edu.