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In Healthy Adults, Narcolepsy Biomarker Predicts Poor Sleep

Last Updated: October 26, 2010.

In the absence of clinical narcolepsy, healthy people who are positive for the genetic narcolepsy marker allele DQB1*0602 have more fragmented sleep and respond poorly to chronic partial sleep deprivation, according to research published in the Oct. 26 issue of Neurology.

TUESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- In the absence of clinical narcolepsy, healthy people who are positive for the genetic narcolepsy marker allele DQB1*0602 have more fragmented sleep and respond poorly to chronic partial sleep deprivation (PSD), according to research published in the Oct. 26 issue of Neurology.

Namni Goel, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues studied 92 DQB1*0602-negative and 37 DQB1*0602-positive healthy adults to determine whether DQB1*0602 was a biomarker of differential vulnerability to neurobehavioral deficits and increased sleepiness during chronic PSD.

The researchers found that, after two nights of 10 hours in bed (baseline), allele-positive patients had greater sleep fragmentation and decreased sleep homeostatic pressure and had sharper declines during the night (measured by non-REM electroencephalographic slow-wave energy); they were also subjectively sleepier. After five consecutive nights of only four hours in bed, DQB1*0602-positive patients were sleepier and more fatigued and had more fragmented sleep compared to DQB1*0602-negative patients, as well as greater REM sleep latency reductions. Both groups had similar cognitive declines after partial sleep deprivation.

"These results are particularly important in individuals involved in shift work and transcontinental travel. While the question of why some of these individuals respond poorly to sleep deprivation is of great academic interest, hopefully this will result in targeted treatments to minimize or eliminate some of these effects," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

One of the authors has a narcolepsy-related patent through Stanford University. Several authors disclosed one or more advisory, consulting, or financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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