Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is the essential symptom of narcolepsy, and it’s usually the first symptom that people notice. EDS means that you get overcome by an irresistible need to sleep during the day, and you can feel tired all the time. People with narcolepsy can fall asleep randomly and at unexpected times, even while eating or talking with someone.
Most people feel tired sometimes, but when you have EDS in narcolepsy, it’s usually a struggle to stay awake and alert throughout the day.
Everyone with narcolepsy has EDS, but not everyone describes it in the same way. Some may describe it as feeling fatigued or irritable, having difficulty concentrating, or having poor memory or mood changes.
EDS can be harder to identify in children, as it can look different from how it appears in adults. Older children may start taking naps again, and younger children may start taking longer naps or extending their nighttime sleep.
Also, children may not use the words “sleepy” or “sleepiness” when describing their EDS. It’s important for healthcare professionals to differentiate sleepiness from “fatigue,” “tiredness,” or “lack of energy” when screening for narcolepsy.
Pediatric narcolepsy patients often show symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). EDS may appear as hyperactivity, problems paying attention, emotional instability, aggression, irritability, or bad behavior, which can lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD or other psychiatric disorder.
Finally, EDS in young children may be mistaken as a normal need for a nap. In older children, it might be mistaken for laziness or lack of motivation.