Study objectives: Narcolepsy with cataplexy is caused by a loss of orexin (hypocretin) signaling, but the physiologic mechanisms that result in poor maintenance of wakefulness and fragmented sleep remain unknown. Conventional scoring of sleep cannot reveal much about the process of transitioning between states or the variations within states. We developed an EEG spectral analysis technique to determine whether the state instability in a mouse model of narcolepsy reflects abnormal sleep or wake states, faster movements between states, or abnormal transitions between states.
Design: We analyzed sleep recordings in orexin knockout (OXKO) mice and wild type (WT) littermates using a state space analysis technique. This non-categorical approach allows quantitative and unbiased examination of sleep/wake states and state transitions.
Measurements and results: OXKO mice spent less time in deep, delta-rich NREM sleep and in active, theta-rich wake and instead spent more time near the transition zones between states. In addition, while in the midst of what should be stable wake, OXKO mice initiated rapid changes into NREM sleep with high velocities normally seen only in transition regions. Consequently, state transitions were much more frequent and rapid even though the EEG progressions during state transitions were normal.
Conclusions: State space analysis enables visualization of the boundaries between sleep and wake and shows that narcoleptic mice have less distinct and more labile states of sleep and wakefulness. These observations provide new perspectives on the abnormal state dynamics resulting from disrupted orexin signaling and highlight the usefulness of state space analysis in understanding narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.