A woman bakes bread in the kitchen smiling

Exploring New Hobbies With Narcolepsy: Baking, Photography, and Tattoo Art

Narcolepsy type 1 is a combination of constant exhaustion, fading into sleep at a moment’s notice, and cataplexy.

These symptoms have impeded many areas of my life. Some days it is difficult to get out of bed and do something as simple as showering. Other days I might feel a pique of energy at an unexpected time, and decide to participate in some of my hobbies.

As a person with narcolepsy, some hobbies are easier to participate in than others.

Baking

Baking with narcolepsy can be an interesting experience. More than once, I’ve fallen asleep while baking and ended up burning my creation. For example, I attempted to make granola at my parents’ house last year. I ended up burning the batch because I fell asleep, and the timer wasn’t loud enough to wake me up. My dad was furious at me for my mistake and, unfortunately, didn’t understand that it wasn’t my fault but rather the result of having severe narcolepsy symptoms.

I’ve since learned to bake in steps, taking naps in between, and always ensuring that I have an alarm on my phone that is loud enough to wake me up when it is time to pull the baked goods out of the oven. My favorite thing to bake is fermented sourdough bread. The gaps of time needed between steps are huge, which allows for plenty of safe napping breaks.

Photography

Photography is one hobby that I am nervous about doing while having a sleep attack. Photography equipment is expensive. When I am having a sleep attack, I suddenly become very clumsy and am more likely to drop things. However, it isn’t too difficult to line up a sight with a camera on automatic.

Any photography requiring setting personalized ISO and shutter settings is more difficult for me to do with brain fog associated with my sleep attacks. The thing about photography, similar to baking, is that there are multiple steps to the art. These can include finding a destination, setting up lighting, shooting, post-production edits, and more. Naps can be fit in between these steps.

However, I find that having to nap in between every step significantly slows down my progress. I am a novice photographer and am learning how to use my limited skills to capture nature, especially birds. That being said, people with more experience may find that their skills are still accessible to them even during periods of exhaustion or sleep attacks.

Tattoo art

Tattoo art can be difficult to complete with narcolepsy. I started to teach myself how to tattoo on fruit and fake skin. I enjoyed the work, but after a while, I would begin to fade from consciousness. Suddenly, my linework would turn shaky, and I would misinterpret lines.

Unfortunately, I decided to stop pursuing the art of tattooing. When learning to tattoo, my end goal was to eventually transition to creating permanent body art. Creating designs is not a problem for me. However, I doubted my ability to transfer those designs accurately to skin when having sleep attacks. I hope that other people with narcolepsy are able to make it work because that was a super interesting skill to learn!

What hobbies do you enjoy?

What kind of hobbies do you like to participate in? Do you find that certain activities are easier to do than others due to your Narcolepsy? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

This article is part of an author series on hobbies. Check out the other articles in this series:

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