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Is Narcolepsy A Disability?

  • Published: October 22, 2019

Narcolepsy is a condition caused by the brain’s inability to properly regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. People with narcolepsy often develop this neurological disorder in puberty, although it can take years for it to worsen to a point where other symptoms will manifest. But is narcolepsy a disability?

Because narcoleptics may fall asleep at random or inopportune times, the disorder can be a disability if it significantly impact their ability to work.


While the cause of narcolepsy is unknown, studies show that many who suffer from narcolepsy don’t have enough of the chemical hypocretin, which aids in sleep regulation and is responsible for making a person feel alert. People with narcolepsy may also have abnormalities in the parts of their brains that regulate REM sleep cycles.


Common symptoms include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): Indicated by recurrent periods of an irresistible urge to sleep.
  • Cataplexy: May include attacks involving loss of muscle tone, and may actually involve collapse during which the person remains conscious.
  • Sleep paralysis: Sensation experienced while drifting off to sleep or upon waking where a person is unable to move and they know they are asleep.
  • Hallucinations: Often occur between the times of sleep and wakening.

These symptoms can range from mild drowsiness to extreme sleepiness where you are unable to stay awake for extended periods of time. Some people with narcolepsy spend the entire day asleep and awake, unable to work or do anything else productive. You may have to report these to your doctor and keep a daily log showing how they impact your life.


If you are diagnosed with narcolepsy, your doctor may assess the severity of your condition with testing and by recording how your condition affects your life. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is typically obtained, and attempts may be made to determine if you have abnormal REM sleep patterns.

Narcolepsy may be treated with stimulants and mood elevators; however, there are no universal blood level determinations for these drugs. Narcolepsy is not commonly treated with anticonvulsants.

Ongoing treatment is important for narcoleptics. The severity of their condition can change greatly over time. Treatment options may change and need to be adjusted regularly.


If you suffer from narcolepsy that makes it impossible for you to work, you may be able to receive LTD benefits. You will need to provide detailed medical records that show:

  • Diagnosis of narcolepsy
  • Frequency and duration of your symptoms
  • Persistence of your symptoms even when following prescribed treatments
  • Severe disruption of your ability to function due to narcolepsy symptoms

Your evidence must show that narcolepsy severely impacts your “residual functional capacity” (RFC) and you are unable to perform full time work. An RFC indicates your physical and mental capabilities and limitations caused by an impairing condition. Your RFC may be measured according to your ability to perform activities of daily living, such as dressing, grooming, bathing, and generally caring for yourself. It also looks at the physical and mental job duties you are able to perform. Your doctor can complete an RFC form that will detail the severity of your condition according your abilities and limitations.


Medical records are critical to your ability to receive long-term disability benefits. If you have diagnostic test results proving your condition, you can submit that evidence in your claim. It’s important to prove that your condition is severe enough that it prevents you from working.

To that end, you need to provide documents that support your diagnosis and the severity of your condition. Documentation for a narcolepsy claim may include the following:

  • Diagnostic tests (EEGs, sleep studies, and other exams)
  • Medications and their negative side effects
  • Other treatment or therapies you’ve tried
  • Treating physician’s opinion of your RFC
  • Detailed records from your doctors identifying your condition, symptoms, outlook, and overall status


Is narcolepsy a disability? It can be, if your condition becomes so severe that it impacts your ability to work full time. But proving this requires the knowledge and expertise of a long-term disability lawyer. At CJ Henry Law Firm PLLC, we can help you submit or appeal an LTD claim for narcolepsy. To learn more, contact us today.

Claudeth Henry

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