Design and patients: Subjects with Niemann-Pick disease, type C have been reported to display narcolepsylike symptoms, including cataplexy. In this study, 5 patients with juvenile Niemann-Pick disease were evaluted for sleep abnormalities using nocturnal polysomnography, clinical evaluation, and the Multiple Sleep Latency Test. HLA typing and cerebrospinal fluid hypocretin levels were also evaluated in 4 patients. Niemann-Pick disease diagnosis was confirmed in all cases biochemically and by the presence of foam cells in the bone marrow.
Results: Deterioration of intellectual function; the presence of pyramidal, dystonic and cerebellar features; and splenomegaly were observed in all cases. Cataplexy was reported in 1 patient. Nocturnal polysomnography revealed disrupted sleep in all patients. Total sleep time, sleep efficiency, rapid eye movement sleep, and delta sleep amounts were decreased when compared to age-matched controls. Altered sleep patterns included sudden increases in muscle tone during delta sleep, electroencephalographic sigma activity connected with rapid eye movements and muscle atonia, atypical K-complexes and spindle activity, and the presence of alpha-delta sleep. All Niemann-Pick disease cases exhibited fragmentary myoclonus. Shortened mean sleep latencies were observed in 3 patients during the Multiple Sleep Latency Test, but sleep-onset rapid eye movement periods were observed only in the case with cataplexy. This patient was HLA DQB1*0602 positive, while the other subjects were HLA negative. Cerebrospinal fluid hypocretin-1 levels were reduced in 2 patients (1 with cataplexy) while in the 2 other patients, the levels were at the lower range of the normal values. Hypocretin levels in the Niemann-Pick disease group (204.8 +/- 39.3 pg/mL) were significantly reduced when compared to controls (265.8 +/- 48.8 pg/mL).
Conclusions: The findings suggest that lysozomal storage abnormalities in Niemann-Pick disease patients may impact the hypothalamus and, more specifically, hypocretin-containing cells. These changes might be partially responsible for sleep abnormalities and cataplexy in patients with Niemann-Pick disease.