NarcolepsyMidwestSma ll

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Jon R. Doud, MD Pulmonary Physician Midwest Center for Sleep Disorders Aurora, IL: 

Jon R. Doud, MD Pulmonary Physician Midwest Center for Sleep Disorders Aurora, IL Narcolepsy


Narcolepsy A central nervous system disorder that is an important cause of persistent sleepiness.   The second most common cause of disabling daytime sleepiness after sleep apnea.


Clinical features Neurobiology Evaluation Treatment

1862-      Gelineau applied the term "narcolepsy" to a clinical syndrome of daytime sleepiness with: 

1862-      Gelineau applied the term "narcolepsy" to a clinical syndrome of daytime sleepiness with - hypnagogic hallucinations - sleep paralysis - cataplexy

Narcolepsy affects 1 in 2000 people in Western Europe and North America Equal prevalence in men and women : 

Narcolepsy affects 1 in 2000 people in Western Europe and North America Equal prevalence in men and women EPIDEMIOLOGY AND CLINICAL FEATURES


Narcolepsy… Typically begins in the teens and early twenties, but can occur as early as age 5 or after age 40 The symptoms may worsen over the first few years and then persist for life Half of all patients report that symptoms interfere with job, marriage, or social life


Can be considered a disorder of state control- Elements of sleep intrude into wakefulness, and wakefulness intrudes into sleep This state instability results in characteristic symptoms

Excessive daytime sleepiness —: 

Excessive daytime sleepiness — All patients with narcolepsy have chronic sleepiness Over 24 hours, they do not sleep more than normal controls, but they are prone to fall asleep throughout the day, often at inappropriate times “Sleep attacks“ Often improved temporarily by a brief nap Patients with untreated narcolepsy typically have ESS scores above 15

Associated Features…: 

Associated Features… Hypnagogic hallucinations Sleep paralysis Cataplexy

Hypnagogic hallucinations: 

Hypnagogic hallucinations Vivid, often frightening hallucinations that occur just as the patient is falling asleep Likely result from a mixture of REM sleep dreaming and wakefulness

Sleep paralysis: 

Sleep paralysis A complete inability to move for a minute or two just after awakening Episodes of sleep paralysis may be accompanied by hypnagogic hallucinations


Cataplexy Sudden episodes of bilateral muscle weakness leading to partial or complete collapse Often triggered by strong emotions such as laughter, anger, or excitement Episodes of cataplexy last one to two minutes, and are not associated with impairment of consciousness Sixty percent of narcoleptic individuals develop cataplexy

Other symptoms… : 

Other symptoms… Maintenance insomnia Higher than expected incidence of other sleep disorders Slightly higher incidence of adult onset diabetes, obesity, and migraine headaches


Neurobiology Loss of function of the neuropeptide orexin (hypocretin) Made by neurons in the lateral hypothalamus Excitatory effects on postsynaptic neurons through the ox1 and ox2 receptors


Neurobiology The orexins are synaptically released during wakefulness Increase the activity of many brain regions involved in the promotion of wakefulness Locus coeruleus, raphe nuclei, and the tuberomammillary Help stabilize wakefulness, preventing inappropriate transitions into REM or non-REM sleep


Animal models first identified the importance of orexin in narcolepsy People with narcolepsy also have orexin deficiency About 90 percent of narcoleptics with cataplexy have little or no detectable orexin in their spinal fluid Autoimmune or neurodegenerative process results in a loss of orexin neurons Narcolepsy without cataplexy may be a separate disease- they usually have normal CSF orexin levels


GENETIC FACTORS Usually sporadic, but genetic factors play important role Most narcoleptics (50 to 90 percent) have HLA DR2 and DQ1 Environmental factors appear to be even more important: only about 25 percent of affected monozygotic twins are concordant for narcolepsy On rare occasions, narcolepsy runs in families.

Secondary narcolepsy: 

Secondary narcolepsy Narcolepsy is usually caused by a sporadic, possibly autoimmune, process Midbrain injuries can produce similar results, though affected patients usually lack the full narcolepsy syndrome

Secondary narcolepsy: 

Secondary narcolepsy Tumors, vascular malformations, and strokes have all been reported to cause secondary narcolepsy, most likely due to direct injury to the orexin neurons or their projections All patients with secondary narcolepsy have obviously abnormal neurologic exams, with cognitive, motor, and/or eye movement deficits Thus, neuroimaging is unnecessary in narcoleptic patients with a normal bedside neurologic exam


CLINICAL EVALUATION Complete evaluation includes an overnight polysomnogram (PSG) Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) Nocturnal PSG and the MSLT are standard, electrophysiological diagnostic procedures to measure the amount and type of sleep that occurs during a specified time period


MSLT A patient is given four or five opportunities to nap every two hours On average, healthy subjects fall asleep in about 10-15 minutes


MSLT People with narcolepsy often fall asleep in less than five minutes The naps of narcoleptics often include REM sleep Occurrence of sleep onset REM periods (SOREMs) in two or more naps is an essential feature in establishing the diagnosis of narcolepsy


False negative 20 to 30 percent of the time Should be repeated if the history is strongly suggestive of narcolepsy May be less sensitive for the diagnosis of narcolepsy in older adults because sleep latency increases and SOREMs become less frequent with age


False positives: SOREMs can occur with other disorders that increase REM sleep pressure: -sleep deprivation -untreated sleep apnea -circadian phase delay

Drug Effects…: 

Drug Effects… REM sleep-suppressing medications (TCAs, SSRIs) or withdrawal from these drugs also can produce SOREMs ("rebound" phenomenon) These drugs should be discontinued at least three weeks before the MSLT if possible


DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS With Cataplexy: Hypothalamic lesions Prader-Willi syndrome Niemann-Pick disease type C Norrie disease Without Cataplexy: - OSA - PLMD - Idiopathic hypersomnolence


TREATMENT Mainstays of therapy are -Stimulants for the treatment of sleepiness -REM sleep-suppressing medications for the treatment of cataplexy Napping and sleep hygiene Psychosocial support


A few may get by with an occasional nap Most patients require a wake-promoting drug These drugs improve performance as measured by reaction time and simulated driving tasks Performance usually does not exceed 70 to 80 percent of normal control levels Goal is obtaining "normal" alertness throughout conventional waking hours


Modafinil Non-amphetamine "wake-promoting agent“ Mechanism of action not well understood Reaches peak bioavailability in about two hours Well-tolerated No evidence of tolerance


Modafinil Large placebo-controlled clinical trials have shown significant improvements in Maintenance of Wakefulness Tests and Epworth Sleepiness Scale measurements The drug is hepatically metabolized and induces several cytochrome P450 enzymes, thus decreasing the effectiveness of oral contraceptives Women of childbearing age who use modafinil should employ another method of contraception


Typical dose is 200 to 400 mg given once in the morning May also be divided into early morning and mid-afternoon doses Side effects are uncommon but include headache, nausea, dry mouth, anorexia, and diarrhea The lack of sympathomimetic effects also makes modafinil a good choice for older patients who may have hypertension or heart disease


Amphetamines Used to control sleepiness since the 1930's Methylphenidate, Dextroamphetamine Very effective Sympathomimetic side effects can be troublesome Pemoline is no longer routinely used; can cause fatal hepatotoxicity


CATAPLEXY AND OTHER REM-RELATED SYMPTOMS About 30 percent of narcoleptics have cataplexy that warrants treatment Brainstem circuits that generate REM sleep are strongly inhibited by norepinephrine and serotonin Drugs that increase noradrenergic and serotonergic signaling suppress REM sleep and reduce cataplexy


Tricyclic antidepressants such as protriptyline or clomipramine Very effective, but anticholinergic side effects limiting (dry mouth and constipation) Newer antidepressants venlafaxine and fluoxetine are very effective and well tolerated Abrupt withdrawal from any of these antidepressants can trigger status cataplecticus - severe, nearly continuous cataplexy

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB): 

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) 2002- Approved by the FDA for the treatment of cataplexy Especially useful in patients with severe cataplexy Can also improve daytime sleepiness GHB is a metabolite of GABA Mechanism of action in patients with cataplexy is unknown

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB): 

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) Significantly decreases the frequency of cataplexy, and improves subjective daytime somnolence Adverse effects include nausea and dizziness in over 30 percent of patients 14 percent developed urinary incontinence and a similar number had a worsening of sleepwalking

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB): 

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) Gained notoriety as a "date-rape" drug Has potential for abuse Anxiety, delirium and insomnia Overdosage can result in respiratory depression, coma, and death


SUMMARY Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness with REM sleep-related phenomena such as cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Narcolepsy with cataplexy is usually due to a loss of the hypothalamic neuropeptide orexin/hypocretin, but the cause of narcolepsy without cataplexy remains unknown. The diagnosis is typically established by a detailed clinical history and an MSLT demonstrating short sleep latencies and REM sleep on two or more naps.


RECOMMENDATIONS General therapeutic measures include sound sleep hygiene, scheduled daytime naps, and avoidance of drugs that can produce daytime sleepiness or insomnia. Drug therapy is helpful in most patients and should be targeted toward specific symptoms. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be treated with modafinil or amphetamine-like compounds. REM-suppressing antidepressants and GHB often produce excellent control of cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations.

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