Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Narcolepsy causes daytime sleepiness and an overwhelming urge to sleep. Children with narcolepsy can fall asleep at any time during the day, but often have difficulty sleeping at night. At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our expert team knows that having a child with sleep issues can be worrisome and stressful. Children need restorative sleep each night, and our team is here to diagnose, treat and manage your child’s narcolepsy.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of narcolepsy in children can include:

  • Automatic behavior: in children, automatic behavior occurs when they perform a task without consciously knowing they are doing it. When this happens, your child will not remember doing that task when they are awakened.
  • Difficulty sleeping at night: children with narcolepsy can be extremely sleepy during the day, but have frequent awakenings at night.
  • Cataplexy: brief loss of muscle control, which can be triggered by intense emotions, like laughing or anger. It can cause mild muscle weakness or a complete collapse. Patients experiencing cataplexy are awake and know what is happening, but cannot stop the sudden loss of muscle control.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): as a hallmark sign of narcolepsy, patients with EDS are sleepy all the time and fall asleep in unusual – and sometimes dangerous – situations.
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations: vivid, dream-like visions that occur when your child is awake, but often feel like a nightmare. Children with hypnagogic hallucinations are often unable to control their actions or response.
  • Sleep paralysis: brief paralysis of your child’s muscle movement, either when falling asleep or when waking up.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Memory loss
  • Snoring
  • Unable to keep up with friends at school or play

The experts at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital diagnose narcolepsy using specialized sleep tests. These tests can evaluate how easily your child falls asleep, as well as if they dream during the day and at night. Our specialists will also take a full medical history and perform a physical exam and blood tests.

With ongoing management, children with narcolepsy can sleep more soundly and have productive, enjoyable awake time.

Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Customized, Multidisciplinary Care

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we know your child’s safe and restorative sleep is one of your top priorities. It’s one of ours, too – which is why we offer our pediatric patients customized, multidisciplinary sleep disorder care. We work closely with your child’s other doctors to provide a comprehensive approach to narcolepsy diagnosis and to determine a treatment plan that best fits your child’s needs. Whether your child needs medication, lifestyle adjustments or behavioral therapy, we are here to help.

Support for the Entire Family

Having a child with narcolepsy has an impact on the entire family. The Penn State Health Children’s Hospital team is here to teach you about narcolepsy and how you can support your child at home, school and during activities. Many times, small adjustments can be made that have a significant impact on your child’s well-being. Educating your child’s teachers, family members and friends can also have a positive effect on both your child and your whole family.

Commitment to Research

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital frequently participates in clinical trials for medical conditions like narcolepsy. For more information on clinical trials at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, please visit StudyFinder.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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