The Inappropriate Occurrence of REM Sleep in Narcolepsy is not due to a Defect in Homeostatic Regulation of REM Sleep


Narcolepsy type 1 is a disabling disorder with four primary symptoms: excessive-daytime-sleepiness, cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis. The three latter symptoms together with a short REM sleep latency have suggested impairment in REM sleep homeostatic regulation with an enhanced propensity for (i.e. tendency to enter) REM sleep. To test this hypothesis, we challenged REM sleep homeostatic regulation in a recognized model of narcolepsy, the orexin knock-out (Orex-KO) mice and their wild-type (WT) littermates. We first performed 48hrs of REM sleep deprivation using the classic small-platforms-over-water method. We found that narcoleptic mice are similarly REM sleep deprived to WT mice. Although they had shorter sleep latency, Orex-KO mice recovered similarly to WT during the following 10hrs of recovery. Interestingly, Orex-KO mice also had cataplexy episodes immediately after REM sleep deprivation, anticipating REM sleep rebound, at a time of day when cataplexy does not occur in baseline condition. We then evaluated REM sleep propensity using our new automated method of deprivation that performs a specific and efficient REM sleep deprivation. We showed that REM sleep propensity is similar during light phase in Orex-KO and WT mice. However, during the dark phase REM sleep propensity was not suppressed in Orex-KO mice when hypocretin/orexin neuropeptides are normally released. Altogether our data suggest that in addition to the well-known wake-promoting role of hypocretin/orexin, these neuropeptides would also suppress REM sleep. Therefore, hypocretin/orexin deficiency would facilitate the occurrence of REM sleep at any time of day in an opportunistic manner as seen in human narcolepsy.


narcolepsy, orexin, cataplexy, neuropeptides, hypocretin, REM sleep homeostasis, sleep deprivation, hypersomnia, anxiety