The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Your Patients Living With Narcolepsy
Your patients’ narcolepsy symptoms may have changed as a result of the pandemic.
Risk mitigation strategies in the pandemic may have caused people living with narcolepsy to alter their routines.1,2 As a result, these patients may experience worsening symptoms and quality of life.1 Excessive daytime sleepiness is most likely to occur in monotonous situations, which may be encountered more frequently in people who are working from home or attending school virtually.3-5
Studies suggest that a majority of people living with narcolepsy have enhanced behavioral strategies (e.g., increasing the duration of nocturnal sleep time and the frequency of daytime napping) during quarantine, which may help alleviate excessive daytime sleepiness.2 Even after the pandemic ends, it is likely that remote learning and working will continue into the future and impact people living with narcolepsy.3,4,6
It is important to reassess patients for symptoms that may not be fully under control in this new environment and to reevaluate management strategies as needed.
Consider recommending behavioral strategies to your patients with narcolepsy to help manage their symptoms, including7:
Taking short naps
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
Avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed
Avoiding large, heavy meals right before bedtime
Telemedicine is a convenient alternative to in-office visits for chronic disorderslike narcolepsy.8
Telemedicine provides many benefits for both patients and providers: it can help alleviate geographic barriers to high-quality sleep care and can help increase regular clinical follow-up. Telemedicine has a successful history in sleep medicine, and its convenience may prove especially valuable for long-term management of chronic disorders like narcolepsy.8 A 2020 study in patients with narcolepsy has shown that adjunctive cognitive behavioral therapy using telehealth helped improve psychosocial functioning.9
- Aguilar ACR, Frange C, Huebra L, Gomes ACD, Tufik S, Coelho FMS. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with narcolepsy. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.8952.
- Postiglione E, Pizza F, Ingravallo F, et al. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on narcolepsy type 1 management. Brain Behav. 2021;11(1):e01955. doi: 10.1002/brb3.1955.
- Camargo CP, Tempski PZ, Busnardo FF, Martins MdA, Gemperli R. Online learning and COVID-19: a meta-synthesis analysis. Clinics. 2020;75:e2286. doi: 10.6061/clinics/2020/e2286.
- Lopez-Leon S, Forero DA, Ruiz-Diaz P. Recommendations for working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic (and beyond). Work. 2020;66(2):371-375.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed. Darien, IL: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014.
- Mukhopadhyay S, Booth A, Calkins S, et al. Leveraging technology for remote learning in the era of COVID-19 and social distancing. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2020;144(9):1027-1036.
- Narcolepsy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated September 30, 2020. Accessed March 4, 2020. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Narcolepsy-Fact-Sheet.
- Watson NF, Rosen IM, Chervin RD. The past is prologue: the future of sleep medicine. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(1):127-135.
- Ong J, Dawson S, Mundt J, Moore C. Developing a cognitive behavioral therapy for hypersomnia using telehealth: a feasibility study. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015;16(12):2047-2062.