Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep suddenly and without warning, often while they’re engaged in an activity. It’s also called “sleeplessness.”
People with narcolepsy may feel tired all the time, even after sleeping for hours. They may have problems with memory and concentration, and they may hallucinate or have other unusual experiences during sleep.
Narcolepsy can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to those of other disorders. The first step is often a sleep study called polysomnography, which monitors brain waves, eye movements, and muscle activity during sleep. This test can help rule out other causes of sleepiness, such as obstructive sleep apnea or a medical problem that affects breathing.
Cause for narcolepsy
The cause of narcolepsy isn’t known for sure, but some experts believe it’s due to a combination of genetics, brain structure or function (such as changes in brain chemistry), sleep patterns (such as staying up late at night or not going to bed early enough), stress levels, or other factors. Children and teens with narcolepsy may have other symptoms like cataplexy and sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is when you feel awake but can’t move. Cataplexy happens when strong emotion triggers sudden muscle weakness, usually in the face or legs.
The disease affects about 1 in every 2 million people worldwide—it’s estimated that there are about 120 million people with narcolepsy worldwide—but it doesn’t affect everyone who has it.
Some people who have narcolepsy can control their symptoms by taking medications such as sodium oxybate (marketed under the brand name Xyrem). There are also some who undergo narcolepsy new treatment just to understand the disease. Narcolepsy can be diagnosed with a sleep test called overnight polysomnography. This test measures brain activity, eye movements, and muscle activity during sleep. It also looks for signs of REM sleep without atonia, which is when you enter REM sleep but don’t experience atonia.
The most common scenarios of narcolepsy are cataplexy and hypnagogic hallucinations.
- Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle strength that occurs when you’re in an emotionally intense situation (like laughing). It affects only some people with narcolepsy, but it can be very frightening for those who experience it. Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid images, sounds, or feelings that occur while falling asleep or waking up. For example, you may hear your name spoken in the distance or see flashing lights that seem to come from a specific direction. These visions are often very realistic and can be frightening if you don’t know what’s happening.
- Hypnagogic hallucinations occur while falling asleep, dreaming, or waking up. They are often frightening and cause people with narcolepsy to wake up in a panic and avoid going back to sleep. Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid images, sounds, or feelings that occur while falling asleep or waking up. For example, you may hear your name spoken in the distance or see flashing lights that seem to come from a specific direction. These visions are often very realistic and can be frightening if you don’t know what’s happening.
What to Do If Your Child Has Narcolepsy
If your child has narcolepsy, it’s important that you know what to do.
Here are some tips for caring for your child:
- Get your child tested for narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a medical condition that affects the nervous system. While there are many different types of narcolepsy, all children with this disorder experience excessive daytime sleepiness and interrupted, rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep.
- Educate yourself about the condition and its symptoms so that you can be as supportive as possible during this difficult time for your child.
- Let your child know that you love them unconditionally and will always be there for them, no matter what happens next.
- If possible, get your child involved in activities that they enjoy and can do without much sleep. This will help them to remain positive during the difficult time of diagnosis.
- Encourage your child to seek out other people who are going through similar situations so that they don’t feel alone in their battle against narcolepsy.
- Be sure to take care of yourself as well so that you can be strong support for your child during this difficult time.
- Remember that narcolepsy is not contagious, so it’s safe for family members and friends to come near your child even if they have symptoms of the condition themselves (although it might be better for them to avoid contact with saliva).
- Try not to focus on the diagnosis as a negative thing, but rather see it as a challenge your child will have to overcome to lead a full and happy life.
- Finally, be sure that you have access to all of the resources available for people with narcolepsy so that you can get help whenever necessary.
There are a lot of things you can do to help your child with narcolepsy. The first step is to learn more about the condition and how it affects those who have it, making it easier for you to understand what they’re going through. Next, try talking with a doctor about any questions or concerns that come up—they may be able to provide advice on managing symptoms and dealing with other people who don’t understand what narcolepsy is.
If you have a child with narcolepsy, it can be hard to know how best to help them. What’s vital is learning what the condition is and why it happens—this will make it easier for you to understand their symptoms and how they feel about having narcolepsy.