Excessive daytime sleepiness, the hallmark of narcolepsy, predisposes patients to serious performance decrements in multiple areas of function. Psychosocial dysfunction has been demonstrated in adults and children with narcolepsy. Several factors could influence psychosocial functioning in children. The objective of this study was to examine neurobehavioral problems in children with narcolepsy and to define associations with these problem behaviors.
A cross-sectional study was performed where the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) was completed by guardians of children (age 18 years or younger) in whom narcolepsy with or without cataplexy was diagnosed (based on the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Second Edition) between July 2008 and October 2014. Spearman correlations (continuous variables) and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests (categorical variables) were performed for the CBCL findings and narcolepsy factors previously shown to influence psychosocial functioning.
The participants’ current age correlated significantly with multiple CBCL scales. Caregivers of younger participants reported higher total psychosocial problems and externalizing problems. In addition, caregivers of younger participants reported higher scores on indices measuring inattention, withdrawal, thought problems, aggression, and rule-breaking behaviors. Values of P < .001 were found for total psychosocial problems, externalizing behaviors, and thought problems (negative correlations of 0.66, 0.65, and 0.64, respectively).
Patients with pediatric narcolepsy have high rates of attention and emotional/behavior problems. These problems strongly correlated with age. Younger children expressed higher emotional, behavioral, and attention problems. Sleep physicians need to be aware of and assess the mental and behavioral health of their pediatric patients with narcolepsy.
Shelton AR, Malow B. Correlates to problem behaviors in pediatric narcolepsy: a pilot study. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(12):1435–1440.