Narcolepsy is characterized by severe and persistent daytime sleepiness, despite getting enough sleep at night. Although narcolepsy is relatively uncommon, its impact on a child's life can be dramatic. It affects boys and girls equally and usually develops during adolescence. Most people have the first symptoms of narcolepsy between the ages of 15 to 30 years old.
The symptoms of narcolepsy can appear all at once, or they can develop over many years. The primary symptom is severe daytime sleepiness. The daytime sleepiness is often the only symptom in children and adolescents. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include:
- Cataplexy is a sudden, brief, temporary loss of muscle control. It may involve the whole body collapsing to the floor. It more typically involves just specific muscles, like drooping of the head or arm or weakness of the knees. Cataplexy is most often triggered by a strong positive emotion, such as laughter or surprise.
- Sleep paralysis is a feeling of not being able to talk or move for a brief period either when falling asleep or just after waking up. Touching the person usually causes the paralysis to disappear. Although it usually just ends on its own.
- Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid, dream-like experiences that are difficult to distinguish from reality, occurring when falling asleep or just after waking up. The hallucinations may involve images that are seen, heard or felt.