Clinical aspects of narcolepsy-cataplexy across ethnic groups

Sleep. 2002 Feb 1;25(1):27-35. doi: 10.1093/sleep/25.1.27.


Study objectives: The objectives of this study were to compare severity and clinical presentation for narcolepsy-cataplexy across various ethnic groups. A large sample of narcoleptic patients was also used to further describe symptomatology and natural history for this sleep disorder.

Design: Retrospective review of clinical data ascertained from the Stanford Sleep Inventory, polysomnography and MSLT data, as well as clinical notes. Ethnicity was narrowly defined as African (Black) Americans, Caucasians, Asians, and Latinos when both parents and the subject identified with a given ethnic group.

Setting: N/A.

Participants: We compared the severity and clinical presentation of narcolepsy in 64 African Americans, 353 Caucasians, 32 Asians, 26 Latinos, and 9 subjects of mixed ethnicity. Subjects were recruited through the Stanford center for narcolepsy research.

Interventions: N/A.

Measurements and results: A striking similarity in symptomatology, age of onset, and disease severity was found across ethnic groups. Mean age of onset for sleepiness, hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis and cataplexy were 19.20, 19.50, 20.11 and 23.02 years old. We also found that narcoleptic patients have slightly but significantly elevated body mass index relative to normative data (106.6% of matched controls, p<0.005) and are born slightly more frequently during the month of March. A tight correlation between our previously validated cataplexy scale and DQB1*0602 positivity was observed. Two thirds of patients reported having cataplexy with laughing, 92% of those being DQB1*0602 positive independent of ethnicity.

Conclusions: These results confirm the similarities in clinical presentation and natural history of narcolepsy-cataplexy in a large number of patients of various ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency / genetics
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains
  • Hallucinations / diagnosis
  • Hallucinations / epidemiology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins*
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcolepsy / diagnosis
  • Narcolepsy / epidemiology*
  • Narcolepsy / genetics
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Paralysis / diagnosis
  • Sleep Paralysis / epidemiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*


  • DNA Primers
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains
  • HLA-DQB1 antigen
  • Membrane Glycoproteins