Do you have narcolepsy and don’t even know it?

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Narcolepsy has often found its way into pop culture since it’s a condition that can make characters suddenly fall asleep at a moment’s notice.

Films like Moulin Rouge! and Isle of Dogs feature characters with narcolepsy, which can make an audience chuckle. Even though filmmakers may poke fun at this disorder, narcolepsy really isn’t a laughing matter. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 200,000 Americans have narcolepsy—but only a quarter of them have been properly diagnosed.

That means it’s possible to have narcolepsy and not even know it. Lauri Leadley, clinical sleep educator and president of Valley Sleep Center in Glendale, Arizona, says the symptoms of narcolepsy don’t always present in a way that prompts people to seek medical treatment.

“The symptoms aren’t always severe,” she says. “[Narcolepsy] won’t be diagnosed or treated until 10 to 15 years after the onset of symptoms.”

It’s estimated that up to 200,000 Americans have narcolepsy—but only a quarter of them have been properly diagnosed.

Chris Winter, MD, neurologist, sleep specialist, and author of The Rested Child, shares a similar sentiment, saying, “We as doctors struggle to recognize sleepiness as a disorder. Patients have a tendency to ignore it or explain it away.”

Since it’s a difficult condition for individuals—and even doctors—to pinpoint, read on for helpful information that may lead you to a narcolepsy diagnosis.

What is narcolepsy?

Winter defines narcolepsy as “a disorder of sleep regulation causing the affected individual to feel excessive sleepiness at a near-constant level.”

He explains that it’s caused by a deficiency of a sleep-regulating chemical called orexin. Leadley adds that it’s a rare neurological disorder that impacts the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.

“In short, it affects the brain’s ability to control the timing of sleep,” she says.

The main triggers that can bring on narcolepsy include autoimmune disease, a chemical imbalance, brain injury, and certain infections, according to Leadley.

“Narcolepsy is typically present in people between the ages of 10 to 40 but can occur at any age,” she says. “Symptoms become more severe as a person ages.”

Narcolepsy can have genetic ties as well. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that 10% of people diagnosed with narcolepsy also have a relative with the condition.

What are the most common narcolepsy symptoms?

The top symptom of narcolepsy is “mainly a relentless drive to sleep,” as Winter puts it.

Alex Savy, certified sleep science coach and founder and CEO of Sleeping Ocean, says narcolepsy symptoms typically appear during the adolescent years.

Narcolepsy symptoms can include:

  • Sleep paralysis: This is the temporary inability to move or speak during the sleep-wake or wake-sleep transition. Leadley says this can last seconds or minutes.
  • Hypnogogic hallucinations: These hallucinations can take place as you fall asleep or wake up. They often manifest as unusual and frightening dreams that can take place in your current environment.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): “EDS is the first symptom many people with narcolepsy will experience,” Leadley says. “EDS is responsible for the sleep attacks associated with this condition and causes people to involuntarily fall asleep at inappropriate times.”
  • Cataplexy: This is a sudden and unexplained loss of muscle tone typically triggered as a strong emotional response. “Although they are conscious throughout the attack, they generally cannot speak and may lose the use of their arms and/or legs,” Leadley notes.
  • Insomnia or fragmented sleep: People with narcolepsy often also have another sleep disorder, like insomnia, reports Mayo Clinic.

Needless to say, these symptoms can make day-to-day functioning quite difficult for those with narcolepsy. Specifically, Leadley says these sudden sleep attacks can make working or driving very dangerous.

“Narcoleptics are likely to experience 10 times more traffic accidents than those who don’t have narcolepsy,” she says.

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

Like any other disorder, a diagnosis of narcolepsy typically starts with your health history, a physical exam, and bloodwork.

Winter says that often, a doctor will recommend a sleep study and nap study (also known as a sleep latency test) to further confirm symptoms. Leadley says the sleep center should be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which you can search for on their website.

If you suspect narcolepsy, Savy says you can ask your primary care physician for sleep medicine specialist recommendations to find the right doctor.

“A primary care physician might not have a deep enough understanding of this disorder, so it’s better to seek a professional with a thorough understanding of the issue, someone whose specialty is narrowed down to sleep problems,” he says.

Since narcolepsy is a neurologic condition, you might also meet with a neurologist to get a proper diagnosis, Savy adds.

It can be possible to misdiagnose narcolepsy as something else. It’s frequently mistaken for depression and anxiety since these disorders can share similar symptoms.

What’s the best narcolepsy treatment?

While there’s currently no cure for narcolepsy, luckily, there are quite a few treatment options.

Winter says there are up to nine FDA-approved medications that “can be remarkably helpful to patients with the disorder.” These medications are usually nervous system stimulants.

Leadley recommends a combination of medication and behavioral therapy to address narcolepsy, along with scheduled naps and maintaining a regular sleep, exercise, and meal schedule, things that will help keep the condition under control.

“Practice healthy habits,” she emphasizes. “Keep a balanced diet and stick to a set sleep schedule, naps included. Make sure to make plans far enough in advance so you can keep to your schedule.”

Keep in mind that narcolepsy treatments depend on each specific case, says Savy. Only a professional can find the most suitable solution for each patient based on the severity of the disorder, the number of symptoms, and particular lifestyles.

“To manage daily life while dealing with narcolepsy, patients need to follow their medical regimen and doctor’s recommendations,” Savy shares. “Finding support online or in local communities can be beneficial too, as it’s easier to deal with something challenging when you can share it with others.”

You might also want to educate your family and friends on the issue to avoid misunderstanding or confusion when one of the symptoms occurs, suggests Savy.

Taking care of your safety is of the utmost importance as well. For example, you might want to avoid driving or operating machinery if the medication takes its time to start working, says Savy.

From narcolepsy to restless legs syndrome, here are the most common sleep disorders and how to treat them.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by


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12 easy steps for feeling happier & healthier


“I’m going to start the keto diet tomorrow because I want to lose 20 lbs for my wedding. I’m trying to be more disciplined about how I eat.”


Does that sound familiar? Most of us like to talk about how we’re going to work on our self-discipline regarding fitness and finances or just life in general. We all know that we should improve our self-discipline to get better results and get more done.


We don’t know where to start, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when developing self-discipline. That is why I wanted to address this topic today based on years of research and to try everything out personally.


How can you build self-discipline? Let’s look at 12 ways to develop self-discipline even if you’ve already tried everything.


People have accused me of being disciplined in the past. Often, I don’t know how to respond. Why? In my mind, I feel like there’s always more to get done. I’ve done my best to test out different ideas and try to create a disciplined life to get more done and save more money for what I want to do.


In this article, we’re going to look at what you need to know about self-discipline and the different ways that you can develop self-discipline right now, even if it feels like you’ve tried everything.


Most information out there on self-discipline is just annoying and unrealistic. It’s easy to feel discouraged when advice surrounding self-discipline in a self-help book feels condescending.


In the perfect world, we would all wake up at five in the morning, meditate for 20 minutes, and then go through our day without any interruptions or temptations. In reality, this isn’t what happens at all. Life comes at us quickly.


We start the day off with the best intentions and still waste time or not getting much done. We don’t always eat the best, nor do we get as much done as we should.


There are two things that you need to know about developing self-discipline:

  1. You’re not a bad person if you have cravings or are not constantly feeling disciplined. You’re not a robot, and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone on social media shame you for not being perfect.
  2. You can always work on your discipline. You don’t have to stay stuck at your current level. That is a skill that can be developed and worked on overtime. Nobody’s born being 100% disciplined, just like nobody’s completely undisciplined.

Are you ready to get started?




I’ve put together the best tips that I could find, along with actionable quotes from books and authors that have helped me develop self-discipline over the years.


Here are 12 ways that you can develop self-discipline.


Are you setting realistic goals? Have you thought about starting small to make some progress?


Too often do we fail to stay disciplined because we set unrealistically audacious goals. We don’t even know where to start or how to begin, so we end up doing nothing.


In the book “Essentialism” the following point is brought up on setting small goals:


“Instead of starting big and then flaring out with nothing to show for it other than time and energy wasted, to really get essential things done we need to start small and build momentum. Then we can use that momentum to work toward the next win, and the next one and so on until we have a significant breakthrough—and when we do, our progress will have become so frictionless and effortless that the breakthrough will seem like overnight success.”


The trick is to set small and realistic goals to not set yourself up for failure.





Social media has convinced us that we need to be the hardest workers in the room who constantly work on various projects. That couldn’t be further from the truth. To develop self-discipline, you need to ruthlessly eliminate it from your life and figure out what you need to focus on.


In the classic book “The One Thing” Gary Keller brings up an excellent point on accomplishing your goals:


“It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it is that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”


Try to focus on one thing at a time so that your mind isn’t all over the place. It’s much easier to be disciplined when you’re only working on one important thing.


Did you know that your environment could be holding you back? There’s a reason so many people work out of coffee shops; or why CrossFit classes are such a hit.


According to James Clear in “Atomic Habits,” it’s more important to change your environment than it is to try to rely on will-power:


“The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least. It’s easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it very often. So, yes, perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.”


When you want to improve your self-discipline, consider changing the environment.


Here are a few examples of how you can make this happen:

  • Don’t keep a bag of chips on the table when you’re trying to lose weight.
  • Have a specific space for work so that you’re not trying to finish that article while you’re on the couch watching the evening news.
  • Hang around with people who are working on similar goals.


Whatever you do, try to set yourself up for success by making it easy to stay on track. The trick is to set everything up so that you don’t have to struggle to stay disciplined.


How can you make your goals easy?

  • Know yourself.
  • Work within your limits.
  • Focus on progress over perfection.

On that note…


Are you being held accountable? The truth is that most of us can’t stay disciplined on our own. We need people around us that will keep us accountable so that we have a responsibility to do what we said we would do.

How can you hold yourself accountable?

  • Hire a coach so that you’re financially committed.
  • Find co-workers/friends on a similar path.
  • Make your goals public.
  • Write your goals down everywhere.
  • Use a planner to track your progress.

It would help if you were held accountable to ensure that you’re going to follow through.


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Too many of us set vague goals. We want to be healthy or wealthy. We wanted to be more disciplined, but we don’t know what that discipline looks like.

James Clear brought this up in the aforementioned “Atomic Habits” book on habit building:


“Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action. Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement.”

Direction is much more important than speed.


Willpower is the last thing that you should rely on. You won’t always feel motivated. You won’t always feel like doing the right thing. The trick is to change your environment, hold yourself accountable, and set small goals so that you never have to worry about being motivated 24/7.


There’s no easy way to say this. You have to avoid the noise. You have to find ways to ignore the noise to focus on what matters to you.


You can’t develop self-discipline if you allow any of the following to distract you:

  • Everything that’s happening on the news
  • Notifications from 8 different social media apps
  • Arguing with strangers on Facebook
  • Getting upset over every comment that you read

In the book “The Daily Stoic” this point is brought up on focus and attention:


“Think of all the interests vying for a share of your wallet or for a second of your attention. Food scientists are engineering products to exploit your taste buds. Silicon Valley engineers are designing applications as addictive as gambling. The media is manufacturing stories to provoke outrage and anger. These are just a small slice of the temptations and forces acting on us—distracting us and pulling us away from the things that truly matter.”


You’re going to get pulled in every direction. You have to do whatever you can to block out what doesn’t matter so that you can accomplish your goals.



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I’m not one of those corny motivational people. I want to remind you that it’s important to remember why you’re trying to accomplish that goal that requires you to develop self-discipline.


Here are a few things to consider:

  • You want to lose weight to be healthier so that you can live longer to meet your grandkids.
  • You want to pay off that debt so that you can finally quit your job.
  • You want to save up so that you can take your partner on that dream vacation.
  • You want to grow that side hustle so that you can follow your dream of being a writer.

That leads to the next point.


Rostislav_Sedlacek / istockphoto


Too many of us focus on goals that we don’t even care about.


“Everyone’s motivated at something. It just depends on the thing. Even the people that we say are unmotivated are suddenly really motivated when they’re playing video games. I think motivation is relative, so you just have to find the thing you’re into.” — Naval


You’ll develop more self-discipline when you focus on goals that interest you and keep you excited.


Being disciplined isn’t just about saying no to everything. It’s okay to celebrate along the way. I’ll even say that celebrating small wins is essential to developing self-discipline for the long run. We all need to look forward to something.



Chinnapong / istockphoto


You have to figure out what’s holding you back from being more disciplined. The goal is to eliminate your obstacles so that you can replace them with more productive activities.


This one quote opened my eyes to distractions and obstacles:

“Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality. How we deal with uncomfortable internal triggers determines whether we pursue healthful acts of traction or self-defeating distractions.” — Nir Eyal


When things aren’t going your way, you must take a step back to identify the barriers holding you back to know what you need to work on to develop self-discipline.


It’s pretty much impossible always to feel motivated. You won’t always do the right thing, and you’re going to make plenty of mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re human. The goal will always be for progress over perfection.


I turn to this excerpt from BJ Fogg on building tiny habits:


“Most people operate under the assumption that they’ve got to go big or go home. They think that in order to kick a bad habit, destress, or make a pile of money they’ve got to do something radical. Go cold turkey. Sell their house and move to the beach. Put all their chips on the table. Go all in. Those who take these extreme measures and succeed are lionized.


If you’ve ever watched a special about an Olympic athlete who’s been training twelve hours a day since she was three or a successful businessperson who sold everything and moved to Italy to find true happiness, you know what I’m talking about.


There’s nothing wrong with taking bold action. Life and happiness occasionally demand it. But remember that you hear about people making big changes because this is the exception, not the rule. Narrative drama comes from bold action, not from the incremental progress that leads to sustainable success.”


The key message to remember is that it’s important to focus on the next small task in front of you instead of worrying about 20 different things that you have to do. You won’t develop self-discipline overnight. That will take some time and effort.


Good luck with developing more self-discipline. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.



This article
originally appeared on 
YourMoneyGeek.comand was
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