Wakeup Diet & Exercise Program Restores natural circadian rhythms
Wakeup Diet FAQ, Part 7


QUESTION. I notice increased effects of narcolepsy (also jet lag) on rainy days. Is the increase typical?

ANSWER. Yes. "External weather" seems to affect your "internal weather." Rainy, snowy or cloudy days might have an obvious effect. Other weather conditions might cause more subtle effects. On stormy days, watch out for extra cataplexy attacks and "breakthrough" visual distortions. Typical distortions are visual grain and snow, or lagging after-images.

Fortunately the visual distortions are usually minor, and easy to ignore or consciously erase. If the cataplexy attacks aren't severe, you can work right through them. For example, even if you're a bit dizzy, you can still use a computer.

The real cause of the increased symptoms might be the change in barometric (air) pressure on rainy or snowy days. See: Rainy days.

Also jet lag. As with narcolepsy, likewise with jet lag. Suppose that you don't have narcolepsy. Gloomy days will still tend to make you sleepier, clumsier and slower. Your recovery will tend to be more difficult, because exposure to sunshine is an important part of the remedy. Frankly, barometric pressure affects everybody.

QUESTION. How can I cope with heavy barometric pressure?

ANSWER. Heavy air pressure seems to stress the body. For example, rainy or snowy days might increase the symptoms of jet lag, narcolepsy and cataplexy. With atmospheric changes, a person's strength actually varies from one day to the next. Of course, you have no control over the air pressure. Yet you can compensate to some degree by reducing other stresses. For example, digestion requires energy. On stressful days, eat less or eat more simply. This method might help you to conserve your focus and strength.

For jet lag. If you're tired because you just stepped off the plane, you'll feel "under the weather." If the weather itself is bad, you'll feel worse. The remedy is the same as for narcolepsy: Switch immediately to the local time. During the workday, eat only protein. Restrict your calories. Don't drink coffee, tea, or pop. In the early evening, exercise strenuously. Take a hot shower. Eat a balanced meal and include those starches. No alcohol or caffein. Relax and then head for bed. Use an alarm clock to wake you at the local rising hour. Sleep tight. You'll feel much better tomorrow. Start up right with morning exercises before eating. Keep breakfast light. Make sure that you have some protein.

QUESTION. Does hot, humid summer weather affect narcolepsy?

ANSWER. Yes. Does it ever! Narcoleptics (and normal, sleep-deprived people) have problems with body temperature regulation. Research has proven that the skin of narcoleptics tends to be warmer than normal. Actually, because the regulation is off, a narcoleptic person can be warmer or colder than normal. He or she can also snap from one extreme to another. Since we either have summer or the heating season, narcoleptics usually tend to be overly hot.

The hypothalamus is a gland in the middle of the head, roughly behind the nose. A malfunction of the hypothalamus can cause drowsiness, overheating, chilling, or all three.

A hot summer day warms the skin. Add humidity, and sweat can't cool off the body efficiently. Everyone becomes uncomfortable and the wiser ones slow down. Narcoleptics, with their extra-warm skin, become extra uncomfortable. If the heat precipitates a cataplexy or narcolepsy attack, the heart will tend to slow down. As it does, the skin tends to swell. The surface might become numb. Underneath, the flesh aches. The effect is something like a "whole-body headache." And it's a splitter! Some people think that it feels like a hangover or the flu. Similar to both of those ailments, the sufferer might also have vertigo, an upset stomach or nausea.

QUESTION. How can I cope with hot, humid summer weather?

ANSWER. Here's the best treatment for the dog days of summer: Air conditioning, an ice pack on the back of the neck, and plenty of water. Definitely move out of the sun and heat. When the worst passes, return to the normal schedule: Exercise strenuously (inside, if possible), eat, and then go to bed as usual. If you don't return to the normal schedule, the problem will extend into a second day.

QUESTION. I canít sleep at night. What should I do?

ANSWER. We're talking about “sleep hygiene.” This answer applies to non-narcoleptics, too.

Temperature. Donít lie there and toss about! Decide why you canít sleep. Are you too cold? Then pile on the blankets and encourage the cat to hop on the bed. If you can't get warm, wear a coat, hat and socks. In several hours, you'll be too hot! Then you should reverse the procedure. (Beyond one night, the socks and hat are a bad idea. You can contract athleteís foot or ringworm that way. If you have seborrhea, it might worsen.)

Fresh air. To sleep restfully, you must be cool, but never cold. Fresh air is very important. If the air is clean and cool outside, open the window. (Only if you live in a quiet neighborhood.)

Regular sleep habits. Reserve the bed for two activities: Sleep and sex (not at the same time, please.) No texting, surfing or snacking in bed. Keep the TV out of the bedroom. When the light goes out, stop chatting with your mate. Count those sheep silently. Go to bed at night, and keep regular hours. If you must nap in the daytime, wear a blindfold to keep out ambient light.

Sleep positions. Start the night in your favorite position. After a few hours, you might wake up. Typically, the reason is that you've slept as much as you can in this preferred position. Flip over. Often you can grab another hour or two of shuteye. The next time you awake, try Position Number 3. Sleep positions “should be” common sense, but sleep paralysis prevents narcoleptics from moving very much. Sometimes the only sign of discomfort is waking up.

Eat and sleep. What if you're wide awake and your watch says 5 am? You know you're tired, but you can't sleep. What now? Deploy the “Canít-Fail, Backup Technique”: Eat breakfast and start your wakeup exercises. If you actually wake up, then you're up for the day, and you'll sleep better tonight. If you start feeling chills, you'll be able to sleep right away. (Chills mean that the hypothalamus has dropped out of “temp-regulating mode.” During sleep, the hypothalamus doesn't regulate.) The problem with the backup plan is that it almost works too well. Waking up again is difficult. Also, the plan might well shift your dayparts. On the bright side though, the plan could help you to avoid that mid-morning headache.

A regular work schedule constrains your sleep hours and helps you to match dayparts with everyone else. For instance, you must rise whether youíve slept well or not. As a result, the evening brings substantial drowsiness. You tend to sleep through the night. Your sleep is integrated and your dayparts track with society's: Success!

QUESTION. I'm extremely tired every morning. How can I avoid this tiredness?

ANSWER. Whatever you do, don't give in the urge for coffee and sweets! They'll only provoke an insulin reaction and slam you down even further. Something that you're doing has shifted your circadian rhythms toward sleep and away from wakefulness. The sleepiness likely results from inefficient or not enough nighttime sleep.

If you wake up at night, check the time. If you have two hours or more until your normal rising time, eat starches. You don't need much food. Remember that the Wakeup Diet is a weight-neutral program. The idea is to maintain your weight. To avoid adding extra calories, eat starches that you would normally have at breakfast. Then when you have breakfast, don't repeat these starches.

For example, I have my half cup of Glucerna cereal between 1 and 3 AM. About five minutes later, I return to bed. I can then drop off very quickly and sleep until the alarm sounds.

♦ Caution: You'll know if you eat too much starch, or eat it too late. Waking up in a few hours will be more difficult than normal. You'll have a “starch hangover” (sluggishness and possibly bloating). Fortunately, with cool air, sunlight and exercise, the effect wears off. In the next attempt, cut down the starches. Be persistent. After a few trials, you'll get the amount right.

QUESTION. After I take cold medicine, I seem foggy and sleepier than usual. Is my narcolepsy connected in some way?

ANSWER. This answer applies to over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. (If you're taking prescription medicine, check with your pharmacist and the prescribing doctor.)

Medicines that contain antihistamine will likely worsen your narcolepsy and cataplexy symptoms. In my experience, fogginess and excessive daytime sleepiness become more severe as medication continues. Each day is more difficult. Sleep also becomes less restful. I'm not surprised that some over-the-counter sleeping aids also contain antihistamine. Unfortunately, the resulting, fragmented sleep might not be satisfying. Some cold and allergy medications include additional hypnotic agents that aren't antihistamines.

Don't know if your medication contains antihistamine? There are many types of antihistamine. (Two common ones are diphenhydramine and doxylamine.) Please read the product label. Typical labels mention increased “drowsiness.” These labels also caution against operating “heavy machinery.” Such a label strongly suggests antihistamine content. I also recommend a Google search on particular ingredient names. Search results will tell you if your ingredient is an antihistamine. Also see the Wikipedia article on antihistamines.

An easy way to tell if your treatment has antihistamines or other hypnotics is by the product name. In the product name, look for some form of the words Night or Nighttime (Fictitious example: Ni-A-Mil). Avoid this product.

Better choices. Some Robitussin® products (not the “Nighttime” Robitussin) are antihistamine-free and might be helpful. A competing product, Wal-Tussin DM Max®, is available at Walgreens. I like both products. (The “DM” indicates dextromethorphan, not antihistamine.)

Whatever your cold medication, follow label instructions. If you develop a problem, discontinue use and see your pharmacist or doctor.
— The Webmaster

QUESTION. What about over-the-counter cold medications with ephedrine or ephedra?

ANSWER. Medications with ephedrine (or any other type of adrenalin) are stimulants. Often these products contain some form of the words Day or Daytime (Fictitious example: Day-A-Mil). Recent products in this category contain stimulants other than ephedrine. Beware: Stimulant products may cause phase shifts, crashes and rebound effects, including disorientation, microsleeps and hallucinations. Stimulants can interfere with normal circadian rhythms. Avoid cough medications that contain any kind of stimulant.

Whatever your cold medication, follow label instructions. If you develop a problem, discontinue use and see your pharmacist or doctor.

WARNING. Potential side effects include mania, hypertension, heart attack, stroke or even death. Treatments with the Chinese herb Ma Huang contain ephedra. Pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, epinephrine and adrenalin are approximately equivalent. This warning applies to all these chemicals.

QUESTION. What about over-the-counter cold medications with Dextromethrophan and Guaifenesin?

ANSWER. In my experience, the cough-suppressant Dextromethorphan (DM) and expectorant Guaifenesin are helpful. Neither of these ingredients is an antihistamine. After taking cold medications with these ingredients, I could sleep fairly normally. Cough medications with these ingredients allowed me to work as usual while recovering from the cold.

When shopping for cold medications, I seek Dextromethrophan and Guaifenesin. A desirable product contains as few additional ingredients as possible. I'm not partial to food coloring and the solvent propylene glycol. Yet finding cough syrup without these gratuitous chemicals is difficult. I won't buy a cough syrup with NutraSweet® (Aspartame or phenylalenine). I've read reports that Aspartame metabolizes into toxic chemicals (methyl alcohol and formaldehyde).

Whatever your cold medication, follow label instructions. If you develop a problem, discontinue use and see your pharmacist or doctor.
— The Webmaster

QUESTION. When I get depressed, I become clumsy and shaky. Is there a connection with narcolepsy?

ANSWER. Yes. You're describing symptoms of narcolepsy with cataplexy. In fact, you're having a cataplexy attack.To cope with cataplexy, you should know that some level of depression is your trigger. Now depression can be a legitimate emotion. Watch the reaction of normal friends or family members. If they become sad or sorrowful, then please sit down and briefly share their emotion.

But beware: This is a case where a little is okay and more is hazardous. One can overindulge in sadness or sorrow, just as one can overindulge in candy or junk food. You must never again overindulge or allow yourself to become seriously depressed. Please be mature about this: Forbid yourself this indulgence, because it's debilitating. If leaving your friends is necessary to prevent crushing disability, you must do so. With an appropriate apology, save yourself for another day. You can see those friends next week. For now, exit immediately. Then do something distracting and cheerful. Take a walk in the sunshine and think of something else!

If you can't control your emotions, see a psychologist or social worker. Use your own judgment, but psychiatrists probably shouldn't be your first choice: They might prescribe tranquilizers upon which you will become dependent. For more information on that subject, see Talking Back to Prozac or Your Drug May Be Your Problem by Dr. Peter Breggin. These books are available at many libraries, or by interlibrary loan. You may purchase used copies at Amazon or other booksellers.

If some other emotion causes shaking, weakness or collapse, forbid yourself to indulge in that emotion. Your self control prevents your disability from becoming a burden for which you can't care. In other words, you have an alternative: You could lose your freedom, dignity and individuality. No emotion is worth that loss.

WARNING. No medical body has reviewed, authorized, approved or disapproved the statements on this Web domain. This domain exists for information purposes only. The page solely represents my observations, opinions and discoveries. The Food and Drug Administration hasn't evaluated this domain. I don't intend this domain as a treatment, cure or means of prevention for any disease. I make no warranty for the processes that I discuss here. I make no guarantee as to accuracy or reliability of my observations, opinions or methods. I hope to serve and to help. Yet you must use this domain at your own risk. Your errors, failures and regrets are your own business. Your discoveries, successes and happiness are your own achievements. — The Webmaster

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