a kitchen with tacos, a cutting board, a knife, and a phone alarm ringing as smoke clouds enter the frame

Cooking Safety: Narcolepsy in the Kitchen

Have you ever prepared a gorgeous, steaming meal only to burn it to a crisp at the last minute? Cooking with narcolepsy can be a dangerous game to play.

I may have narcolepsy, but I also need to eat. Here are a few tips that I use to stay safe in the kitchen with narcolepsy:

1. Always use a cutting board, and chop foods with caution

This one goes without saying. Having narcolepsy can make a person more prone to accidents, and tasks that are usually safe can become hazardous because of sleep attacks or loss of muscle control.1

I always use a cutting board when chopping vegetables, and I make sure to go extra slow and take extra care when cutting food while I am especially tired. It only takes one slip-up to open a vein!

2. Prepare meals in stages

Cooking up everything at once in a whirlwind of hunger may save some time, but at what cost?

In the early days of my narcolepsy, I burned myself almost every time I stepped foot into the kitchen. Now that I've learned to live my life in a way that accommodates my narcolepsy better, I still burn myself, but not as often.

I find it easier to prepare my main dishes and sides at separate times to conserve my energy and prevent being overly tired in the kitchen. For example, here is how I would prepare a meal of tacos with a side salad on a low-energy day:

Soak beans overnight. At 10 AM, rinse beans and add water and seasoning. Cook on low until 3 PM. At 3 PM, serve pre-made chopped salad from bag and slice tomatoes and onions for the tacos. Eat salad. Place beans on tortillas and add onions and tomatoes. Enjoy.

3. Reduce the amount of time spent in the kitchen by preparing meals in bulk

Now that I’ve expressed my dislike for cooking everything at once, I will next explain how much I like cooking everything at once.

I prepare up to 4 days of meals when I cook to reduce how often I need to cook. For example, I will prepare 4 cups of dry beans instead of 1 cup of dry beans. It really isn’t hard to cook with added bulk.

However, it is higher stakes to cook in bulk — if you burn the meal, you burn 4 meals at once! Which brings me to...

4. Set reliable alarms

I get sleepy frequently with narcolepsy, making it necessary for me to nap often. I also get stuck in automatic behaviors or thought processes when I am overly tired but still awake.

Either one of these episodes can be interrupted with the use of an alarm. I set alarms when I have something cooking that I might forget about (thanks, brain fog). It ensures that nothing burns!

Have you struggled with food prep, cooking, or other kitchen tasks with narcolepsy? Have you developed any helpful alternative ways of preparing meals with your narcolepsy symptoms in mind? Share with us in the comments below!

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