While the symptoms of narcolepsy can be difficult to manage, exercise can improve alertness, focus and energy levels.
Yes. One of the best ways to reduce narcolepsy symptoms is to exercise. Sitting for extended periods can make anyone tired, but it can have a particularly sedating effect on people with narcolepsy. Taking brief walks during slow periods of work or between classes can help improve energy levels, making it easier for individuals with narcolepsy to stay alert and focused.
While any physical activity can reduce narcolepsy symptoms, regular exercise is particularly beneficial. Exercising for 20 minutes a day can:
- Improve strength, endurance, metabolism and overall health
- Boost sleep quality
- Increase alertness
Despite the benefits of regular exercise, many people with narcolepsy understandably avoid physical activity. Because they are already tired most of the time, finding the energy to exercise can be difficult, particularly if the physical activity is monotonous. Some individuals are able to combat their tiredness by exclusively participating in exercises that they feel passionate about and enjoy. While running can be mentally engaging enough for some people with narcolepsy, others may perform more complicated activities, such as playing pick up games of basketball, dancing or rock climbing.
Other potentially engaging exercises include:
- Martial arts
- Horseback riding
Finding an activity that is engaging and motivating can make it easier to make time for physical activity on a daily basis. However, it’s also important for people with narcolepsy to keep in mind any potential complications that could arise during exercises. To prevent injury during symptom flare-ups, individuals with this condition should consult with their doctors before beginning a new exercise routine and work out with partners or in public spaces when possible. This ensures that someone will be nearby to provide assistance if a flare-up does occur.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Narcolepsy Fact Sheet” July 6, 2018. Accessed February 20, 2019.
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