Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes a child to be extremely sleepy during the daytime or to fall asleep suddenly at unusual times and locations.
Children who suddenly fall asleep or are unable to stay awake during the daytime have narcolepsy. There is no cure for narcolepsy, but it can be managed.
Researchers believe narcolepsy is caused by a lack of the sleep hormone hypocretin, which controls the body’s sleep-wake patterns.
Although the exact cause is unknown, there are several recognized triggers, including:
- Change in sleep patterns
- Hormonal changes
- Infections like strep
- Inherited (passed down)
- Psychological stress
- Receiving the flu vaccine called Pandemrix (used during swine flu outbreaks)
Symptoms of narcolepsy may include:
- Cataplexy (loss of muscle control when feeling strong emotion or stress)
- Difficulty sleeping/waking frequently at night
- Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) despite sleeping all night
- Hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid, nightmare-like visions that occur just prior to falling asleep)
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of energy
- Memory loss
- Performing automatic behaviors without remembering later (example: writing or driving)
- Sleep paralysis (feeling of being paralyzed while falling asleep or upon waking)
- Sudden urge to sleep, even while active or talking, during the day