Stories about: Narcolepsy

Does your child have narcolepsy?

Teenager with his head down is sleeping in class, possibly with narcolepsy.

Teens are a notoriously sleepy bunch. Left to their own devices, many will happily snooze into the early hours of the afternoon. About 28 percent of teens also report falling asleep in school at least once a week, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation. This can make it difficult for parents to know when a teenager’s love affair with sleep might be the sign of narcolepsy or another sleep disorder.

While narcolepsy is a rare condition, affecting only about .05 percent of the U.S. population, it often goes undiagnosed. It is a condition that typically develops between ages 10 and 20.

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Sleepy teen finds relief in narcolepsy diagnosis

For as long as Maeve Sheehy can remember, she’s had short spells of feeling like she was about to fall over.

“It wasn’t like feeling faint, it was more like my knees would buckle underneath me,” says Maeve, now 16. “I would instinctually try to keep from falling by bracing myself.”

Sometimes the bracing didn’t work and Maeve would topple over. If she was with friends, she’d pretend she had tripped, to cover it up. But she secretly worried something was wrong with her. When she tried to explain the falling feeling to her parents and doctors, she was told she was probably dehydrated.

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Narcolepsy is my sleepy superpower

My talent is almost more like a superpower. I have the ability to fall asleep wherever and whenever. Now I know you’re probably thinking all teenagers have this power, but trust me, I’m a little different. At any time or place, I have the ability to take a nap.

Intrigued by my power, experts and doctors conducted multiple tests and studies on me. When the results came back, it was clear I wasn’t normal. One doctor even admitted, “These are numbers I’ve never seen before.”

Developing my superpower

I first began developing my sleepy superpower in the fall of my junior year after transferring to Middlesex School. That autumn, I was eager to get to know my new teachers and peers and have them get to know me — and my year started strong both academically and socially. However, in November, my excitement quickly vanished as I began to involuntarily fall asleep in multiple classes.

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