The Biggest Misconceptions About People With Narcolepsy

Living with narcolepsy brings so many challenges, including learning to handle the misconceptions others have about the diagnosis.

Unfortunately, there are many myths and misunderstandings about narcolepsy out there. To learn more about the biggest ones you face, we asked our Facebook community: “What is the biggest misconception about narcolepsy?”

We received an overwhelming response – 100 community members shared – so we created 2 different articles to include the many misconceptions.

“We are lazy.”

By far the most common response from community members is that others mistake narcolepsy for laziness. People see the fatigue or hear someone mention being tired, and they make unfair assumptions without knowing anything about the diagnosis. They may think that someone with narcolepsy simply does not know how to manage their time and get a proper night of sleep. Anyone who believes this clearly does not understand narcolepsy.

“We are lazy.”

“We are lazy! I have learned to do all my house cleaning when I wake up. I fall asleep again around noon.”

“My sister thinks it is a bunch of crap and that I am just lazy.”

“That we are faking!”

Another common misconception is that people with narcolepsy are just pretending to have a disease and making their diagnosis and symptoms up. In many cases, because coworkers and people you know cannot see your narcolepsy – at least most of the time they cannot – they have a hard time believing it. This is especially true if the diagnosis and symptoms have never been explained to them or they do not personally have a close friend or family member living with narcolepsy.

“That we are faking!”

"It is all in your head!”

“That we are liars and always exaggerating.”

“If you just got more sleep, you would be fine.”

Sadly, it is common that when people hear about a diagnosis they do not understand, they offer “help” in the form of uneducated opinions and advice. Many times, they think people who have narcolepsy simply need to go to bed earlier to get more sleep. Instead of taking the time to learn that narcolepsy makes it very difficult to get a good night of sleep, they mistakenly believe it must be a time-management problem for the person with narcolepsy.

“You just need to go to bed earlier.”

“If you just got more sleep, you would be fine.”

“You can control it.”

It is a clear sign someone does not understand narcolepsy when they think that the person living with the condition can easily control it or make simple choices to make it just disappear.

“That you can fight a sleep attack and that it is a choice.”

“That we can just get up and push through it.”

“You can control it.”

Thank you to everyone who shared. We appreciate your willingness to talk about your experiences. Check out Part 2 to read about the most commonly heard misconceptions about narcolepsy.

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Community Poll

Do you feel that others judge the severity of your narcolepsy based on how you look?