a woman is yawning while sitting in the back seat of her car and holding a pillow

Driving Safely With Narcolepsy

Have you ever been invited to an event, only to have your excitement immediately turn to worry about how to get to and from there safely?

That’s always my first reaction to any invitation. Driving with narcolepsy is difficult and can be dangerous. My brain is always somewhere between sleep and awake because it can’t neurologically keep itself in one place. Unfortunately, driving requires constant vigilance!

Tips for driving safely with narcolepsy

It might seem like a driving narcoleptic is an antithesis – driving requires being alert at all times, and I am rarely alert. I recently discovered that it’s possible for me – I just have to follow strict rules and routines.

1. Get an ungodly amount of sleep the night before

I was invited to a wedding this weekend. I made sure to get 14 hours of sleep the night before. A lot of this time in bed was spent tossing and turning, I will admit. I can never stay asleep for long. But the sleep in between adds up!

2. Nap before driving – this means both ways!

I was thrilled to do get dolled up before this event. I had planned in advance to nap after getting ready. Femme makeup and hair take a lot of effort. I couldn’t afford to leave the house with depleted energy. I had an hour to drive! I made sure to nap before leaving my house, as well as before leaving the venue. More on that one later.

3. Use stimulants to your advantage

I took caffeine pills to help me stay awake. However, I took way too much for the ride home! I was jittery until late that night – lesson learned. Side effects of caffeine for me include dehydration, anxiety, lightheadedness, and insomnia.

4. Create a portable napping station

I made a bed in the back of my car to nap in. It felt great to drive along, knowing that I could pull over at any moment and take a pretty comfortable nap. This was useful at the event, too. I started having sleep attacks after we ate. I decided to take a nap in my car. I couldn’t enjoy what was going on around me while fighting through sleep. I started getting anxious in the car about missing out. I reminded myself that I was listening to my body and choosing to put my needs over my wanting to participate. I couldn’t be there, not really, even if I’d let myself stay.

5. Notify friends you’ll be driving

I told friends beforehand when I’d be driving and when to expect a text that I got home safely. This is a safety tool that fellow hikers use to ensure that if there is an emergency, someone will look for them.

6. Bring along your favorite podcast – and make sure it’s interesting!

I knew I’d be driving in remote areas with limited phone service, so I downloaded some hiking podcasts before my trip. One episode was much more interesting than the other, and it kept me awake better. I will have to screen all my podcasts beforehand and pick the most interesting ones!

How do you stay safe while driving?

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