Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that results in extreme disturbance of sleep patterns. Those who suffer from narcolepsy do not sleep in a normal pattern at night, and so often they are highly susceptible to falling asleep at irregular and unpredictable intervals throughout the day. These episodes are sometimes referred to as “sleep attacks”. During a sleep attack, a person might even collapse while standing or walking. Although treatment can sometimes be effective, if it is not then those who suffer from narcolepsy are usually unable to work. The bottom line is that most employers require that you remain awake while you are working. Even if you have a simple sit down job like folding laundry, falling asleep at irregular intervals would probably interfere with your ability to maintain a production pace.
If you suffer from narcolepsy it is critical that your are diagnosed and treated by a specialist, such as neurologist or a sleep specialist. Usually, we will need the opinion of both a neurologist and a sleep specialist to prove you have this condition and how severe it is. It is also very helpful to have witness statements from people with whom you have worked or interacted with on a regular basis to describe how your narcolepsy affects you in your daily life.
The most critical piece of information we need is a sleep study. It is preferable that we have a number of sleep studies over a period of years to prove this is a chronic and severe problem. Sleep studies are expensive, but it is almost impossible to prove a narcolepsy case without one.
Even if narcolepsy is not your primary medical problem that is disabling you, it can considered in combination with your other medical conditions. For instance, if you suffer from sleep attacks that cause you to collapse, then you should be limited to no more than sit down work. If you tend to fall asleep when you sit down, then there are probably no jobs for you. It is possible that the symptoms of all your medical problems together could be enough for you to be considered disabled.
The Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments does not specifically address narcolepsy. However, your condition could be considered as meeting or equaling the listing for nonconvulsive epilepsy, even though that is an entirely different condition. Those requirements are listed below.
11.03 Epilepsy – nonconvulsive epilepsy (petit mal, psychomotor, or focal), documented by detailed description of a typical seizure pattern including all associated phenomena, occurring more frequently than once weekly in spite of at least 3 months of prescribed treatment. With alteration of awareness or loss of consciousness and transient postictal manifestations of unconventional behavior or significant interference with activity during the day.