Diet, Alcohol, Exercise, and Narcolepsy

Friends eating

Heavy meals and meals high in carbohydrates can make anyone feel drowsy—this can be especially true if you have narcolepsy. We all have a natural dip in alertness in the mid to late afternoon, so eating a heavy meal in the middle of the day can add to a natural state of sleepiness. A heavy meal, or a spicy one, before bed is also likely to disrupt your sleep.

Instead, try to eat smaller meals that center around vegetables and protein, rather than lots of pasta and bread. For example, a salad with lentils or shrimp will leave you with more energy than a bowl of spaghetti. Here’s a sample menu for the day:

Breakfast: Coffee and oatmeal or homemade granola with fruit

Snack: Almonds or walnuts and berries

Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken or other protein

Snack: Chopped raw vegetables with hummus or apple slices with almond butter

Dinner: Fish with rice and vegetables

Alcohol can disturb your sleep, so try to avoid drinking alcohol, including wine, before or close to bed. Even though you may feel drowsy after drinking alcohol, it makes you more likely to wake up during the night and can worsen the quality of your sleep. If you don’t sleep well, you’re more likely to feel drowsy and have other narcolepsy symptoms the next day.

Engage in aerobic exercise on a regular basis. Whether it’s light, moderate, or vigorous, a workout will help you stay alert and also improve the quality of your sleep at night. A workout routine could involve going to the gym at least three times per week, or taking up a sport like swimming or tennis. Even if you’re unable to do strenuous exercise, a brief daily walk will give you energy. Take a 15-minute walk before lunch or on an afternoon break. Take two short walks if you can accommodate this into your daily routine.