What to Know When Your Child Has Narcolepsy


Gabrielle Manus’s son handled puzzling signs for about 7 years earlier than his physician recognized him with narcolepsy at age 15. Prior to this, he would go to sleep at school, go to sleep within the automobile, and take frequent naps regardless of getting sufficient relaxation at evening. “We got him tested, and he went from academic probation to being on the Dean’s list,” Manus says.

Through her help, activism, and willpower to coach others, Manus’s son is now succeeding academically and socially in faculty. “The most important thing that you can do for a child is become their advocate for accommodations … and fight for your child,” she says.

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Narcolepsy is a dysfunction that impacts the mind’s capacity to manage sleep and application. Without correct remedy, it could possibly hinder your baby’s college, social, and private life. It’s necessary that you just be taught methods to help your baby whereas they navigate life with a neurological situation.

Understanding Your Child’s Diagnosis

As with any situation, it’s essential that you just perceive how your baby’s signs will have an effect on their life. Narcolepsy triggered Manus’s son to wrestle in class, lose his energetic and energetic character, and take care of cataplexy, which is the sudden, transient lack of muscle tone.

About 70% of kids with narcolepsy have cataplexy. It’s triggered by stress or robust feelings and may trigger transient weak spot within the knees, eyes, or jaw or extra intense signs like paralysis with collapse.

Your baby may additionally have signs like:

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). “Excessive daytime sleepiness is the most common presenting symptom,” says Kiran Maski, MD, a pediatric neurologist and sleep drugs specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Nearly every patient with narcolepsy has EDS as a core complaint.” This is normally the primary signal of narcolepsy in kids and would possibly have an effect on your child throughout quiet moments, like at school, whereas they learn, or whereas they experience in a automobile.

Sleep paralysis. This occurs while you’re unable to maneuver or communicate simply earlier than you go to sleep or proper after you get up. These episodes normally cease inside a couple of seconds or minutes.

Hallucinations. Your baby could hallucinate proper earlier than they go to sleep or simply earlier than they get up. Hallucinations with narcolepsy usually occur similtaneously sleep paralysis.

Interrupted sleep at evening. Some kids could have hassle sleeping by means of the evening as a consequence of fixed awakenings.

Automatic behaviors. Your child could go to sleep for a number of seconds however proceed to do routine duties, like writing. They received’t have any reminiscence of doing these duties although.

Weight gain. This is each a symptom and warning signal of childhood narcolepsy. It’s widespread within the early a part of narcolepsy improvement. At least 25% of kids with this situation turn out to be overweight.

Early begin of puberty. If your baby has narcolepsy, they might start puberty sooner than most youngsters.

But a few of these signs aren’t as frequent. “Other symptoms like sleep paralysis, hallucinations, or disrupted nighttime sleep might present more variably in children,” Maski says. “They may have one or two episodes of sleep paralysis, but it’s not a chronic issue on a weekly basis. … Disruptive sleep at night is usually something where they wake up but return back to sleep very quickly. They may not even perceive that as a problem.”

Understanding your baby’s signs will let you successfully take care of them. “That’s what you’d have to do. You have to be strong, you have to do your research, and you have to be able to advocate for your child,” Manus says.

How Narcolepsy May Affect Their Life

Anne Taylor’s daughter was 13 after they came upon she had narcolepsy. Before that, medical doctors examined her for various situations to outline the signs she had. But for years, they have been unable to decipher what was mistaken.

“She was tested for auditory processing disorder and got into special education. That helped a little bit, but she still had a hard time,” Taylor says. “In third grade, she started falling asleep in school. The teachers would have her walk around a table to force her to wake up. That of course, made her stand out from the group of friends. It made her feel different.”

By the time Taylor’s daughter was 11, she started to realize weight. “Within a year, she had a drastic weight gain of like 30 pounds, which is a lot for little child,” she says. “She was starting to become a teenager. So psychologically for a girl at this time it was really, really difficult. She became more isolated.”

For Taylor’s daughter, it was a problem to maintain up with friendships. “It was really hard for her to socialize with other friends in school because she just had to use all her energy on trying to stay awake,” Taylor says.

It was tough to observe, Taylor says. “I could just see that my child was falling to pieces in front of me. And there was really nothing I could do. I didn’t know what it was.”

Thankfully, after her daughter obtained a correct analysis, Taylor and her husband have been in a position to assist their daughter attain her potential. “Once we finally got to the right medication regimen, she improved tremendously and is thriving. … She wouldn’t be where she is today if it weren’t for the special education teachers that surrounded her.”

How to Support Your Child With Narcolepsy

There are many issues you are able to do to assist your baby even after analysis and remedy:

Find the proper medicines. “There are a few classes of drugs that we use,” says Anuja Bandyopadhyay, MD, a pediatric sleep and pulmonary specialist at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

“I usually have a good chat with the families on kinds of medications and what their side effects are. The first line usually is to use a stimulant. … If this is not working out, then the next option is using a wake-promoting drug. Those also have had very good benefits. If the patient is having primary cataplexy, then we would have some options. One of them is using antidepressants.”

Your physician could prescribe your baby amphetamine stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin). They may additionally recommend a wake-promoting drug like armodafinil (Nuvigil) or modafinil (Provigil).

Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) is the one FDA-approved drug for each cataplexy and narcolepsy-associated daytime sleepiness for younger kids. But your physician can also deal with your baby’s cataplexy with antidepressants resembling:

Inform their faculties. “For a lot of children (with narcolepsy), I can easily see how they’d be labeled as lazy. From not wanting to concentrate, not answering the teacher back, not being able to participate in the social group of the class. But those could be some of the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy,” Taylor says. “I hope by talking about this, more people will know about what narcolepsy is.”

To assist academics perceive your baby’s situation, it’s greatest to coach them your self. “The best thing that I can say to parents is bring all the information,” Taylor says. “Copy it for every single teacher that’s in the meeting. … Reach out to the special education department as the school year starts. The more educated we become about our child’s disease, the easier it is for us to teach everyone else.”

Be practical. “We as parents have to adjust our expectations of our children. … My expectations of him in school are different,” Manus says. Narcolepsy is a lifelong sleep problem, however the situation doesn’t worsen with age. If you arrange manageable objectives on your baby, they’ll have the ability to succeed and enhance their signs extra time.

Talk with a therapist. Narcolepsy is a persistent illness; there is not any treatment. “Making sure that [your children] understand that and have resources for coping with a chronic condition is really important,” Maski says. “Whether it’s a guidance counselor, a local psychologist, or a cognitive behavioral therapist, these are very valuable resources to be able to provide kids.”

Help them find peers. It’s very helpful to join support groups,” Maski says. “There’s a number of advocacy groups such as Wake Up Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network, Project Sleep, and Hypersomnia Foundation that have amazing resources. At a local level, ask the physician if there’s other patients to meet or a local support group.”

Encourage naps. “Schools sometimes give the opportunity to take a 30-minute nap. When [your child] is at home, they can take like a 30-minute scheduled nap,” Bandyopadhyay says. These naps can help your child stay refreshed and lessen their sleepiness for a couple hours.

Stay energetic. “One of the things that I have found that is incredibly helpful is exercise, [my son] keeping active,” Manus says. Regular exercise no less than 4 to five hours earlier than bedtime can help children feel more alert during the day and sleep better at night.

Get enough sleep. Your child should follow a regular sleep and wake schedule. This will help them set a routine and get maximum sleep each night.

Limit caffeine. It’s greatest to steer clear of caffeine and different stimulants later within the day. “We know that even though the patient has sleepiness due to narcolepsy, some of these children can also suffer from insomnia at night. And when that happens, that shortens their sleep time even more. It’s a vicious cycle,” Bandyopadhyay says. Caffeine in the evening will only continue to hinder sleep.

Ensure their safety. Keep your child away from situations like driving, cooking, or swimming if they might slip out of alertness. Make certain your baby is absolutely awake and attentive earlier than they do something doubtlessly harmful.

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