Does your child fall asleep easy no matter what they are doing? Frequent daytime sleepiness is often called excessive daytime somnolence (EDS) that can be caused by a chronic sleep deprivation, but it may be a symptom of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy consists of EDS with involuntary sleep episodes. 87% of people have interrupted sleep patterns and 76% of those with narcolepsy show signs of cataplexy which is a sudden weakness without loss of consciousness brought on by emotion. Other symptoms associated with narcolepsy are; hypnogogic hallucinations or vivid dreams and sleep paralysis a condition when one’s muscles are paralyzed, both occur at the onset of falling asleep, according to Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.
100% of the people that have narcolepsy carry a genetic component to the condition with a particular antigen called DR15 on their while blood cells. This antigen is seen in about 15% of the population, but not all people that carry the antigen get narcolepsy. First degree relatives or a family member who shares about 50 percent of their genes such as parent with the condition can pass it to their children. These children have about one percent chance of getting it themselves, which is a much higher rate than the general population.
The first signs of narcolepsy usually occur between the ages of 10 and 25 years old with only occasional sleep attacks. Eventually most narcoleptics develop cataplexy, but its severity varies from one attack per year to several attacks per day. The intensity of the cataplectic attack can also vary from slight weakness in the jaw that allows the mouth to drop open to a complete loss of strength in all voluntary muscles that cause the person to fall.
Sleep studies are often performed to diagnosis and determine the severity of the narcolepsy by using an electroencephalogram or EEG which records the patient’s rapid eye movements (REM). Normally a person sleep pattern has periodic stages of REM that typically occur every 60-90 minutes. Someone with narcolepsy will often go into REM sleep almost immediately after falling asleep. Another test that may be conducted is the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) in which the patient will lie down several times during the day and the time it takes for them to fall asleep easy will be recorded. Narcoleptics fall asleep much faster during the day than most people.
Narcolepsy usually subsides with age, but if you think your child has this condition it can pose a real danger especially if they are driving. Treatment is basically stimulants such as Ritalin or amphetamines. Cataplexy, hypnogogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis may respond to antidepressants. Some doctors have new drugs for narcolepsy other than prescribing antidepressants and stimulants. Herbal concoctions, minerals and vitamins that include St. Johns Wart, gotu kola, vitamin B complex, calcium and magnesium have been used to improve energy levels naturally and reduce the intensity of fatigue. Food allergies can also have an effect on narcolepsy. Researchers have documentation that a person was cured after he took potatoes out of his diet.
Doctors also advise taking a nap in the daytime to help prevent sleep attacks. Behavioral changes are usually recommended along with medications to help a child sleep better at night and to manage their narcolepsy symptoms. Combining the various treatments can improve alertness and help them control the effects of a narcoleptic episode. A medical alert bracelet or necklace will warn others if they suddenly fall asleep or become unable to move or speak. Narcolepsy is often mistaken for depression, epilepsy, or the side effects of medications. If your child falls asleep easy and you think it could be narcolepsy contact your physician to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Behavioral changes are an important factor in managing the symptoms of narcolepsy. Suggested self-care tips, from the National Sleep Foundation, University at Buffalo, and Mayo Clinic, include:
• Take several short daily naps (10-15 minutes) to combat excessive sleepiness and sleep attacks.
• Develop a routine sleep schedule – try to go to sleep and awaken at the same time every day.
• Alert your employers, coworkers and friends in the hope that others will accommodate your condition and help when needed.
• Do not drive or operate dangerous equipment if you are sleepy. Take a nap before driving if possible. Consider taking a break for a nap during a long driving trip.
• Join a support group.
• Break up larger tasks into small pieces and focusing on one small thing at a time.
• Stand whenever possible.
• Take several short walks during the day.
• Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
• Carry a tape recorder, if possible, to record important conversations and meetings.
• Stop drinking alcohol especially during the nights as this can complicate the symptoms.
• Exercise regularly at least three to five hours before bedtime as this helps you sleep better at night.
• Avoid heavy meals and chocolate drinks before going to bed.
• Avoid bright lights before bedtime.
• Take a warm bath before sleeping in the night.
• Keep your environment calm without any distractions from TV or computer.
The content in My Child Falls Asleep Easy – Narcolepsy is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for sleep disorders and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.
Last winter, 29 million children in the United States were given a seasonal influenza shot that incorporates the swine flu vaccine, but according to Tom Skinner, press officer of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, narcolepsy associated with the vaccine has not been reported.
According to Marjo Renko, chairwoman of Finland’s national group of experts on vaccines, a substance was identified as possibly cause narcolepsy, but later denied it.
“There is no proof that the increase in narcolepsy would be linked with the vaccines. We do not suspect anything. This is mere speculation,” she said, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
resource: The Epoch Times