Is Narcolepsy a Disability?

People with narcolepsy might have trouble performing routine tasks.
Article Details
  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Coloring your hair in the ‘30s often came with swollen eyelids, blisters and headaches.  more...

October 21 ,  1879 :  Thomas Edison lit up a light bulb for the first time.  more...

The legal classification of narcolepsy as a disability varies from country to country, but in the United States there are specific laws that protect people who are narcoleptic. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act both require that employers accommodate narcoleptics. Narcoleptic individuals can also secure financial assistance through social security disability insurance or the supplemental security income program. Despite legal recognition of this condition as a potential disability, the extent to which an individual is actually disabled by his or her narcolepsy depends on many factors.

Narcolepsy is not a mental illness, but rather a nervous system disorder that causes extreme daytime drowsiness every three to four hours. These periods of sleepiness can interfere with many routine activities. Those with severe symptoms may not be able to work, drive a car, or go to school.

It is rare for a narcoleptic to suddenly fall asleep during the day despite the fact that this is how the disorder is typically portrayed by the media. Most attacks last less than 15 minutes. Many narcoleptics lead productive lives thanks in part to treatments such as medications and lifestyle changes that control symptoms. Ultimately, only the individual with narcolepsy can determine how disabling his or her condition truly is, if at all.


Regardless of whether an employer views narcolepsy as a disability, the ADA protects narcoleptics from discrimination. As long as a person with narcolepsy can perform the essential duties of his or her job, an employer cannot treat him or her differently because of the condition.

The Family and Medical Leave Act also provides accommodations for narcoleptics who work for employers with more than 50 employees. This law requires that such employers allow an employee with a condition like narcolepsy to take unpaid leave. If necessary, a family member can also be granted unpaid leave to care for a close relative who is narcoleptic.

For the purposes of social security, narcolepsy may be considered a disability. For individuals with severe symptoms, narcolepsy may prevent them from working. In such cases, narcoleptics can qualify for social security disability benefits. An attorney experienced in narcolepsy cases can best help an applicant to obtain these benefits.


More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post 2

Dealing with narcolepsy and a heavy work load would be tough. If you have this or any of the other many sleep disorders, talking with your employer many help him or her understand the issues you are facing. If you don't get the support you need, filing for disability would be an option.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?