Narcolepsy and Creativity
Earlier in my life, if someone had asked me if I considered myself to be a creative person, I would've quickly said no. I was the science and maths nerd who wanted to be an engineer. I had always enjoyed doing little drawings and playing my clarinet as a hobby, but I never considered myself creative. I was always very methodical and logical in my approach to these tasks. Then all of a sudden, that changed.
Embracing my creativity
I was about 16 years old when I decided I was going to be a musician, and I started embracing my creativity. Funnily enough, looking back, I think this was when I started experiencing the early symptoms of narcolepsy.
I was tired all the time, struggling to make it through the school day, and napping when I got home. But I didn't think too much about it. I just assumed everyone was tired.
Creating keeps me awake
I now realise that a lot of the creative endeavors that I have taken on have undoubtedly had an impact on my wakefulness. I would never feel tired when playing clarinet and could do this for hours without thinking about sleep. It was almost like an escape from reality, and I knew that as soon as I stopped playing, I would crash hard and fast.
I can never stay up and be social past 8 PM unless I am doing a gig. The narcolepsy monster stays hidden while I am performing, allowing me to perform and do what I love (it is just getting home after the performance that becomes difficult).
Diving into the art world
Later in life, I rediscovered my love for art. I always loved drawing growing up, and you would often find doodles in the margins of my workbooks at school. But I never let myself fully dive into the vulnerable world of being an artist until recently.
Now, you will often find me drawing on my iPad while watching TV, watching YouTube and painting, or listening to music and sewing cute doggy bandanas. All of these things are hobbies that give me the gift of wakefulness.
Don't get me wrong, sleep will always eventually creep up. But the time that I can spend doing these activities without sleep attacks is a wonderful gift.
Science has answers!
To my surprise, I recently discovered that I am not alone in my creative endeavors as a person with narcolepsy. There are a lot of creative people in the world living with narcolepsy, and there is research suggesting why this might be the case.1
Some studies suggest that there is a link between creativity and REM sleep. As people with narcolepsy fall into REM sleep quickly and often, it is suggested that they have high creative capabilities. It is also said that the recall of dreams and prevalence of hypnagogic/hypnopompic and lucid dreaming have also been found to influence the creative identity of people with narcolepsy.2
Grateful for my creativity
I am so grateful that I discovered my creativity. I got to follow my heart and work in a career that I love, and I found hobbies that are fulfilling in my everyday life. I am thankful that although narcolepsy has so many frustrating and debilitating symptoms, it gave me the ability to find joy and wakefulness in creativity.
How has narcolepsy impacted your ability to work?