Histaminergic neurons of the hypothalamic tuberomammillary nucleus constitute a major wake-promoting system. In animals, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) histamine levels are increased during wakefulness and after sleep deprivation and decreased during sleep. An involvement of the histamine system in human disorders has not, to our knowledge, been reported. We measured hypocretin-1 and histamine levels in the lumbar CSF of 28 patients with and without excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) as assessed by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS). There were 10 patients with EDS (ESS > 10, mean ESS = 14). Diagnoses included narcolepsy (n = 4), idiopathic hypersomnia (n = 2), sleep apnoea (n = 2) and multiple sclerosis (n = 2). Three patients were treated with stimulants. Their mean CSF histamine was 258 ± 159 PM. There were 18 patients without EDS (ESS < 9, mean ESS = 5). No patients were treated with stimulants. Their mean CSF histamine was significantly higher (624 ± 481 PM, P = 0.007). There was a significant inverse correlation (r = -0.48, P = 0.02) between ESS and both CSF histamine and hypocretin-1 levels. These observations suggest that narcolepsy and EDS of other origin are associated in humans with lower CSF histamine levels and therefore with a reduced activity of the wake-promoting histaminergic neuronal system.
© 2010 European Sleep Research Society.