Even when post-lunch naps in kindergarten became a thing of the past, I never stopped sleeping in school. Throughout grade school, I would consistently take naps during class despite getting the proper amount of sleep. Whether or not I slept well the night before, I would always be tired.
Navigating college life for anyone can be an overwhelming experience, especially when you’re exploring the feeling of independence for the first time. Living alone for the majority of my first year at Florida State University (FSU) taught me a lot about myself and — over the years — how to manage my type 2 narcolepsy as a college student.
When my friends start to stress out about class registration for the upcoming semester, I join them on the stress train with the extra baggage that is figuring out when I can schedule a nap in between my future classes. Over time, I learned that if I can squeeze in a power nap before class begins, I enter the class feeling more energized and less likely to fall asleep mid-lecture. My current favorite place to take a quick nap on campus is on the fifth floor of Strozier Library in a study cube.
Apple Watch/Phone Alarms
Despite having narcolepsy, I have always been a morning person. Even though it’s been around 10 years since I’ve used a morning alarm to wake up early for classes, I do set alarms on my Apple Watch or my phone to wake myself up from short power naps. This is extremely useful for whenever I feel sleepy and want to squeeze in a nap between classes. Setting alarms for my power naps ensures that they don’t drag on for hours, which allows me to get on with the rest of my day feeling more energized than before.
Staying caffeinated is more of a temporary fix than anything, but in times of need, a strongly caffeinated drink will still get the job done. My personal drink of choice is a Vietnamese iced coffee that I make at home. The coffee is heavily concentrated by passing through a drip filter, and the addition of sweetened condensed milk brings just enough sweetness to the drink while still letting the flavor of the coffee beans shine through. Whenever I want to beat the Florida heat and enjoy a nice pick-me-up to stay awake, I make myself some Vietnamese iced coffee. If I’m on campus, I’ll order an iced flat white with hazelnut and oat milk from a nearby Starbucks.
Office of Accessibility Services (OAS)
Prior to my diagnosis, I remember being in situations where my biggest struggle during big exams was to stay awake. Sleep attacks are an overwhelming sense of sleepiness that people with narcolepsy may feel suddenly and without warning. They may happen at any time, and the length of a sleep attack will vary by person. Although some sleep attacks only lasted for a few seconds or minutes, the fluctuation of my brain’s consciousness during big exams would throw me off rhythm and waste time that should have been spent on focusing and finishing my exams. Receiving testing accommodations was extremely necessary and beneficial for my academic success.
Despite being eligible for accommodations, I did not always feel comfortable utilizing my personal accommodation plan in some classes. The fear of being treated differently for my neurological disorder sometimes prevented me from seeking help; I am a person who hates asking for assistance or feeling weak. That’s a personal battle that I am still working on to this day.
Narcolepsy is not a curable condition at the moment. However, there are treatments available to manage the symptoms. One of the more popular treatments for narcolepsy is Modafinil, a central nervous stimulant (CNS) that was developed by neuroscientist Michel Jouve and used by the French military in operations during the Gulf War.
Student life at FSU can be hectic and exhausting, even without narcolepsy. What I have found to be most helpful is to have a routine that brings in a feeling of stability and a reliable support system for difficult times.