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Illustrated portrait of narcolepsy advocate Tre Burge.

Meet Tre Burge: Narcolepsy Advocate and Content Creator

“I’ve always been creative. Developing 'Sleppy' came from a need to express what I experience every day with narcolepsy – being sleepy,” shares Tre Burge, a content creator and narcolepsy advocate. “I wanted to create a community that isn’t pigeon-holed. We are all a little 'sleppy' at times.”

Diagnosed in 2015 with type 1 narcolepsy, Tre Burge (pronouns: he/they) was relieved at the news of his diagnosis. He’d spent time before his diagnosis thinking he was crazy because of his symptoms.

How life has changed since diagnosis

When asked how his life has changed since his narcolepsy diagnosis, Tre replied that his life has become both better and worse. His life is better because he was able to regain about 75% of his functionality with narcolepsy treatment.

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At the same time, his life is worse because, as his doctor told him, narcolepsy treatments can only reduce symptoms. There is no known cure for narcolepsy.

Advocacy work through creativity on HeFallsAsleep

Tre, also known on Instagram and TikTok as @HeFallsAsleep, says he expresses his creativity through designing and selling artistic merchandise on “Sleppy” — an online shop aimed towards representing narcolepsy and the necessities of sleep. His TikTok videos sharing his experience with narcolepsy surpass 11,000 views.

According to Tre, most of the "Sleppy" shop was initially inspired by “goofy cartoons I started drawing about being sleepy.”

The 'Sleppy' style

Tre proclaims that "Sleppy" style is “abstract but spicy.” The color palettes are bright and youthful with creative textures. "Sleppy" merchandise features the signature “Sleppy” title on hoodies and accessories featuring sleep-related artwork. Tre’s favorite piece is the Sleppy X Mess Bright Lite hoodie.

“Kinda looks like crayon scribbles, doesn’t it?” He comments on the hoodie texture with a gleam in his eye.

“Sleppy” merchandise is a great conversation starter for spreading awareness about narcolepsy and the need for sleep in our commonly overworked world.

Hope for the future of living with narcolepsy

According to Tre, people often send him direct messages about their own experiences with narcolepsy. Reading their stories about doctors and other narcolepsy-related experiences inspires him to keep making art that spreads the message about narcolepsy as a disease and disability. Tre has hope for the future of narcolepsy, including “representation [for people with narcolepsy] that isn’t confined.”

“I want to see people with narcolepsy on the big screen, being interviewed about their newest project and living their best life with narcolepsy,” Tre says.

Narcolepsy and its impact on intersectional identity

Tre is also concerned about the impact that narcolepsy has on people of color. Speaking on his own behalf, he says, “People see a 275-pound Black man passed out [in public] and make hasty judgments.” Not to mention evidence from studies that have shown that Black people are more likely to be viewed as “lazy."1

Adding identity on top of a severe sleep disorder can be the basis for experiencing microaggressions in public, and even safety concerns. Police violence is much higher towards disabled people and people of color, especially Black men in the U.S., who have a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed by police within their lifetime.2,3

Who are some of your favorite narcolepsy advocates? Do you support businesses run by people with narcolepsy? Share some of your favorites in the comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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