Study objective: To determine if the combination of scheduled sleep periods and stimulant medications were more effective than stimulant medications alone in controlling the excessive daytime sleepiness experienced by narcoleptic patients.
Design: Twenty-nine treated narcoleptic subjects were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: 1) two 15-minute naps per day; 2) a regular schedule for nocturnal sleep; or 3) a combination of scheduled naps and regular bedtimes. Measures of symptom severity and unscheduled daytime were obtained at baseline and at the end of the two-week treatment period, using the Narcolepsy Symptom Status Questionnaire (NSSQ) and 24-hour ambulatory polysomnographic monitoring. No alterations were made in stimulant medications during the study period.
Patients or participants: N/A.
Measurements and results: The addition of two-15 minute naps did not alter either symptom severity or the duration of unscheduled daytime sleep. Regular times for nocturnal sleep reduced perceived symptom severity, but did not reduce the amount of unscheduled daytime sleep. Only the combination of scheduled naps and regular nocturnal sleep times, significantly reduced both symptom severity and the amount of unscheduled daytime sleep in treated narcoleptic subjects. The type of sleep schedule prescribed, however, was less important than the severity of the patients' pre-treatment daytime sleepiness. Subjects with severe daytime sleepiness benefited from the addition of scheduled sleep periods, while those who were only moderately sleepy or able to maintain alertness did not benefit from scheduled sleep periods.
Conclusions: Scheduled sleep periods are helpful for only those patients who remain profoundly sleepy despite stimulant medications and should not be prescribed for all patients with narcolepsy.