Narcolepsy Diet: The Best and Worst Foods for Narcolepsy

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Narcolepsy Diet

Narcolepsy is a serious brain condition that can cause sleeplessness at night at drowsiness during the day. Nearly three-quarters of Americans report they don’t get enough sleep 1+ nights per month. Narcolepsy is one of the various reasons people have sleep problems. Learn more about the condition, including symptoms, causes, treatments, and narcolepsy diet to follow in this article.

What Exactly Is Narcolepsy?

This is the first big question to take up before talking about the types of food you should be eating. This condition is a neurological disorder that affects the brain. It can affect a person’s sleep patterns and even cause them to fall asleep anytime during the day.

The condition can also cause people to keep waking/sleeping at nighttime. It can affect a person’s sleep quality and cause them to feel sleepy during the daytime. They could sleep anytime during the day while doing any activity.

In normal situations, a person goes through different sleep stages. That includes early and late stages, then something called rapid eye movement (REM) after about 1.5 hours. The main problem with narcolepsy is it causes people to go directly into REM without the earlier sleep stages. It’s even possible for patients to go into REM during their waking hours.

There are 2 types of narcolepsy. Type 1 includes a quick loss of muscle tone that triggers weakness and makes people unable to control their muscles. Type 2 doesn’t have muscle problems.  

Here are some of the common symptoms to observe:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
  • Hallucinations
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Cataplexy (muscles)

It’s common for people to have problems falling asleep sometimes or feeling drowsy during the day. However, if they frequently have these symptoms, there’s a higher chance they have narcolepsy.

In terms of narcolepsy cause, health experts aren’t entirely sure. However, they seem to think various triggers affect the brain then affect REM sleep. Scientists are researching issues like genes that are linked to the condition. They might be connected to sleep/wake cycles.

Another theory is the brain has problems making a certain kind of chemical. This is related to brain regions linked to REM sleep.

Narcolepsy Diet: Foods to Eat


Almonds are one of the best options although other tree nuts are also a good option. Almonds are high-protein and high in magnesium and calcium. They can boost energy levels and help to prevent muscle weakness.


This is especially true for dinner or midnight snacks. Go with protein and veggies over refined carbs like bread, pasta, and baked desserts since they can cause you to feel sleepy. You should especially try to avoid these foods at nighttime since they’re more likely to prevent you from getting a goodnight’s sleep.


This includes options like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, and mackerel. It’s the omega-3 fatty acids that can help to boost brain function and help protect the body’s nerves/cells. You should try to prepare the fish in healthy ways like grilled, broiled, and even raw versus fried.

Cruciferous Veggies

This includes broccoli cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. They’re high in a substance known as “glucosinolates” that seems to help boost brain function. Other good veggie options include romaine lettuce, green beans, and others have chromium. This provides energy boosts and helps control blood sugar levels.

Small Meals

If you’ve ever eaten at a buffet or cheat meal then you’re likely familiar with the effects of having a big meal on your energy levels. People often feel drowsy after big meals during the day. If you have narcolepsy you should certainly avoid a big dinner since this will likely cause you to toss and turn at night.

A better approach is 6 to 8 small meals during the day. Make sure dinner isn’t big so you can get to sleep better.

Dairy Products

Go with options like organic/grass-fed dairy. Make sure to include options like milk, cheese, and yogurt. They contain a substance known as “choline” that helps with brain function among narcolepsy patients.

Narcolepsy Diet: Foods to Avoid

  • Caffeine and Alcohol. These are both drinks that can affect your sleep quality. Caffeine can keep you up at night and alcohol can also disrupt your regular sleep pattern. Minimize or ditch both if you have narcolepsy since they can affect when and how well you sleep.
  • High-carb foods. This includes ones like refined grains and white sugar. These options can cause blood sugar spikes. After the blood sugar rush, you’ll experience a ‘crash” that could cause you to doze off at the wrong time during the day or prevent you from getting enough shut-eye at night.
  • Sugary foods. Both of them can have a negative on your sleep cycle since sugar causes blood sugar spikes. This can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep because a high-sugar diet puts your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. Another issue is there’s a crash after the rush, which could affect narcolepsy patients at the wrong time.
  • Highly-processed foods. These are foods you should avoid for a wide range of reasons. If you’ve been diagnosed with narcolepsy it’s another reason because unhealthy ingredients can cause you to feel drowsy and keep dozing off during the day. Enjoy comfort foods once in a blue moon on the narcolepsy diet

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