“Brrr! Brrr!” the strident tones of my alarm aroused me from my dreams with a jolt. Oh goodness! I had to catch a bus and here I was, wrapped in my bath towel dozing on my sofa. It is amazing how quickly one can get out of the house when really motivated. Ten minutes later I was out of the door and on my way to the bus stop. Why was I asleep anyway? Well, I was relaxed after taking a hot bath and then eating breakfast. Triggers which may make anyone sleepy and so doubly likely to lead to a sleep attack for me.
One of my strategies for managing my narcolepsy is to allow myself cat-naps – especially just before going out. Social events themselves do not usually lead to a sleep attack because I am so ‘wired’ that I keep going. However, the moment I am away from that situation I know that I will crash. I set my alarm for the time that I need to leave the house and a second alarm for a time ten minutes before that. This is to ensure that whatever I am doing I stop, and get ready. And it is really helpful when it comes to napping. Before learning to cope, I often jerked awake after napping briefly with no idea where I was, what time it was and a feeling of sheer panic knowing that I should be somewhere else. Over the years I have taught myself to calm that dread, sit quietly and think it through.
It was my sons who bought my first alarm. As teenagers, they clubbed together to buy me an alarm-watch for my birthday. Nowadays I use my iPhone – and would not be without it. It has made such a difference. When travelling on public transport I set the alarm for five minutes before the scheduled arrival at our destination. What fascinates me is that I seldom miss my stop anyhow. I may be in the middle of a sleep attack but my hearing is tuned in to the sound of the brakes as we pull up at the stop/ station.
Five tips for managing sleep attacks.
- Keep regular hours, retiring to bed and rising at the same hour each day.
- Exercise regulary – walk at least thirty minutes daily.
- If beginning to feel the onset of a sleep attack, change your activity and focus on something else
- Factor in short cat-naps during the day, especially at vulnerable times such as after a meal or exercising
- Use your phone alarm to ensure you are on time for social events/ appointments