Narcolepsy and College: A Balancing Act

Lauren Mergen Health Guide
  • A wise friend once told me, college is made up of three things: grades, a social life, and sleep.  But, he said, you can only pick two and usually, sleep is the first to go.  He spoke from experience, as a mature sophomore, when I was just a freshman. 


    Between classes, my extracurricular activities, volunteering, my sorority, a part-time babysitting gig and studying, my day-to-day schedule is jam-packed.   As a junior, I have a good handle on time management but sometimes I get absorbed in my never-ending to-do list.  When I step back and realize sleep is no longer a priority, these are a few daily essentials I do to get back on track. 

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    1.  Exercise.  Working up a sweat everyday has significantly help keep my symptoms of narcolepsy in check.  I focus on cardio when I’m feeling sluggish and stick to working out in the early morning.  Sometimes that 6 a.m. alarm clock comes way too fast, but after I get to the gym and run my heart out, I feel ready to conquer the day. 

    Start with:  Long walks with friends.  You can chat about your day while burning a few calories.  Plus, it’s beautiful outside this time of year!


    2.  Eat Well.  My diet has majorly changed within the past few months and since I was diagnosed with narcolepsy.  In high school, I followed a “vegetarian” diet.  I don’t like the label slapped on my eating habits, but meat was nonexistent. Within the last six months, I’ve begun to eat chicken and turkey.  (I’m not quite ready for red meat, but I’m making progress.)  Now, I follow a Paleo-influenced diet, rich in fresh produce and high(er) in animal flesh.  When I’m lacking energy, I make sure to eat lots of green vegetables and filling proteins. 

    Start by:  Eliminating “bad” carbohydrates like breads, sweets and pasta.  Make vegetables half of your dinner plate.  I promise, you’ll notice a difference and will feel more energized!


    3.  Drink More.  No, this doesn’t mean another vodka tonic on Saturday night.  I mean water.  Good old’ H20.  I bring my Camelbak water bottle with me everywhere and try to drink at least 3-4 a day.  (About 72 ounces.)

    Try:  Swap your daily soda with water and spice it up by adding a lemon wedge.  Added bonus, your skin will glow from the extra hydration. 


    4.  Relax.  Sometimes this means taking a break to go to yoga class. Sometimes it means chatting with my sorority sisters.  Sometimes I crank up my iPod and dance around my room. Whichever you choose, I find it important to slow down and take a few minutes each day to do something to unwind.

    Go:  Grab a mug of tea and call up a friend to chat.  Watch a new episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey (I’ll admit, it’s a guilty pleasure) or a rerun of Friends. 



    Sleep well,




    What do you do when sleep has fallen to the bottom of your to-do list?  How do you get back on track?

Published On: October 12, 2011