Book Club Guide for Wide Awake and Dreaming: A Memoir of Narcolepsy


Note: These questions aim to encourage discussion; there are no right/wrong answers.

  1. Before reading this book, what did you think of narcolepsy? Did this book change your perception? 
  2. When Julie finally brings up her sleepiness with a primary care doctor, Dr. Andrews, the doctor says everyone gets sleepy. Julie has a gut feeling that her sleepiness is not normal (pg. 44). Have you ever had a gut feeling like this with a health professional or authority figure? Did you trust your instinct?
  3. Who is at fault for the downfall of Julie and Taylor’s relationship? Have you ever been in an unhealthy relationship but still felt like it would be “Armageddon” if it ended?
  4. Julie thought she would take medication and be “all better” but she wasn’t. Have you taken medication with side-effects and had to weigh the pros and cons?
  5. During the Harvard Medical School presentation, Julie’s hazardous driving incident from before diagnosis resurfaces in her mind (pg. 159). Have you ever repressed something and had it come back to you much later?
  6. We judge books by their covers. Do we judge people by how they look on the outside? Did this book change your perceptions of how someone could look great but still be suffering with a serious illness? What other serious illnesses may not change how a person appears on the outside?
  7. Does the cover design relate to the book’s themes and stories? How?
  8. Julie’s hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis can be experienced by people without narcolepsy, often during periods of high stress or sleep deprivation. Have you ever experienced something like this? Other crazy dream experiences?
  9. According to Webster’s Dictionary: a dream (noun) is 1. a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep — compare REM sleep 2. an experience of waking life having the characteristics of a dream 3. something notable for its beauty, excellence, or enjoyable quality 4. a strongly desired goal or purpose.  How do you think the word “dream” became connected to things of beauty/excellence and our life goals?
  10. Do dreams matter? Are dreams random neurological firings or important expressions of our deepest subconscious desires and fears?
  11. For you, which scene best hits home the challenges of living with narcolepsy?
  12. Do you know someone with a chronic sleep disorder like narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or insomnia?
  13. Would you be able to recognize the symptoms of someone with a possible sleep disorder now and feel comfortable talking to them about this book? 

Book Summary:  

Julie Flygare was on an ambitious path to success, entering law school at age 22, when narcolepsy destroyed the neurological boundaries between dreaming and reality in her brain. She faced terrifying hallucinations, paralysis and excruciating sleepiness – aspects of dream sleep taking place while wide awake. 

Yet, narcolepsy was a wake-up call for Julie. Her illness propelled her onto a journey she never imagined – from lying paralyzed on her apartment floor to dancing euphorically at a nightclub; from the classrooms of Harvard Medical School to the start line of the Boston Marathon. 

Wide Awake and Dreaming is a revealing first-hand account of dreams gone wrong with narcolepsy. It’s the brave story of one woman trampling over barriers and finding light in the darkest of circumstances.

Author’s Bio:

Julie Flygare received her B.A. from Brown University and her J.D. from Boston College Law School.  Diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2007, Julie has become a national narcolepsy spokesperson and advocate. Her dreams are studied in Harvard Medical School’s curriculum. Her story has been featured by Marie Claire Magazine, ABC News, NBC News, Sirius XM Radio and Psychology Today.

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