DESCRIPTIONNarcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder characterized by uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep at any place or time. After a 10 or 15 minute sleep attack, the person feels rested only briefly, then returns to an uncomfortable feeling of sleepiness. Attacks may occur while driving, talking, or working. The central nervous system is involved. This disorder begins in adolescence or young adulthood and continues throughout life.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSSleep attacks that may occur up to 10 times a day. These can occur during conversations or other activities. An attack leaves the child feeling refreshed, but another may occur again quickly.
Vivid dreams, sounds, or hallucinations at the beginning of a sleep attack or upon awakening.
Temporary paralysis (sudden loss of muscle strength) when falling asleep or just before complete awakening.
Momentary paralysis not related to sleep when the child feels sudden emotion, such as anger, fear, or joy.
Irresistible drowsiness during the day.
Any of the following (10% of children and adults with narcolepsy have all the signs):
Unknown. Occasionally, it follows brain infection or head injury.
RISK FACTORSMonotonous activity.
Either of the following may trigger an attack:
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEReduce the frequency of the child's attacks by avoiding risks listed above, if possible.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
EEG (See Glossary).
Studies in a sleep laboratory.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSAccidental injury during a sudden sleep attack.
This disorder lasts throughout life, but it has no effect on your child's life expectancy. Medication can decrease the frequency of sleep attacks.
HOME CAREYour child should wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or pendant (See Glossary).
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe stimulants or antidepressants (but not both).
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child should not engage in any activity that carries the risk of injury from a sudden sleep attack. These include activities such as driving long distances, climbing ladders, or working around dangerous machinery.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite returns and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of narcolepsy.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.