Most parents have had their child fall asleep in an unusual place (think on the potty) at least once. But when it happens frequently, (during mealtimes, in the middle of a favorite television show, etc.) it might be a red flag for narcolepsy. Extreme drowsiness throughout the day is another red flag.
Narcolepsy in children is not unheard of, but it is rare, and the cause is unknown. Genetic or environmental factors are thought to play a role in narcolepsy by impacting the immune system. Among the general population, it occurs in one in every 2,000 people.
Kids with the condition often have difficulty keeping up with their friends, they fall behind in school, and struggle to stay awake. If this describes your child, consulting a doctor should be on the top of your “to-do” list.
A diagnosis usually follows an overnight sleep study. A family history is also taken at that time. Excessive daytime sleepiness is also evaluated and a 5-nap test is administered. This is called a sleep latency test.
Over the past 20 years, treatments have greatly improved. Today, there are medications available, therapists have a better understanding of the condition, and awareness is slowly going up. The Narcolepsy Network has been championing this cause since 1986. They have an extensive list of resources including support groups that many people have found helpful.