Study objectives: Sodium oxybate (SO) is a GABAβ agonist used to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy. SO was shown to increase slow wave sleep (SWS) and EEG delta power (0.75-4.5 Hz), both indexes of NREM sleep (NREMS) intensity and depth, suggesting that SO enhances recuperative function of NREM. We investigated whether SO induces physiological deep sleep.
Design: SO was administered before an afternoon nap or before the subsequent experimental night in 13 healthy volunteers. The effects of SO were compared to baclofen (BAC), another GABAβ receptor agonist, to assess the role of GABAβ receptors in the SO response.
Measurements and results: As expected, a nap significantly decreased sleep need and intensity the subsequent night. Both drugs reversed this nap effect on the subsequent night by decreasing sleep latency and increasing total sleep time, SWS during the first NREMS episode, and EEG delta and theta (0.75-7.25 Hz) power during NREMS. The SO-induced increase in EEG delta and theta power was, however, not specific to NREMS and was also observed during REM sleep (REMS) and wakefulness. Moreover, the high levels of delta power during a nap following SO administration did not affect delta power the following night. SO and BAC taken before the nap did not improve subsequent psychomotor performance and subjective alertness, or memory consolidation. Finally, SO and BAC strongly promoted the appearance of sleep onset REM periods.
Conclusions: The SO-induced EEG slow waves seem not to be functionally similar to physiological slow waves. Our findings also suggest a role for GABAβ receptors in REMS generation.
Keywords: EEG delta activity; Narcolepsy; hypnotic; memory; sleep homeostasis.