Narcolepsy in Children
Narcolepsy in children occurs more frequently than people think. Children as young as three years old have been diagnosed with narcolepsy. Narcoleptic symptoms, especially excessive daytime sleepiness, often prove more severe when the disorder develops early in life rather than during the adult years. Regularly scheduled naps, high-quality nighttime sleep, and informed school personnel can be particularly helpful for children who have narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy affects both men and women at any age, although narcolepsy symptoms are usually first noticed in teenagers or young adults. Narcolepsy can also develop early in life, probably more frequently than is generally recognized. For example, 3-year-old children have been diagnosed with narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy symptoms in children are similar to those experienced by adults. However, narcoleptic symptoms, especially excessive daytime sleepiness, often prove more severe when the disorder develops early in life rather than during the adult years.
Because of the results of research on narcolepsy, experts have also begun to recognize that narcolepsy sometimes contributes to certain childhood behavioral problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and must be addressed before the behavioral problem can be resolved.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, narcolepsy can pose special problems for children and adolescents, interfering with their psychological, social, and cognitive development and undermining their ability to succeed at school. For some young people, feelings of low self-esteem due to poor academic performance may persist into adulthood.
A group of scientists is now conducting a large epidemiological study to determine the prevalence of narcolepsy in children aged 2 to 14 years who have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.