Excessive daytime sleepiness in narcolepsy and central nervous system hypersomnias

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is the core complaint of central nervous system (CNS) hypersomnias. In this mini-review, we summarized EDS features in CNS hypersomnias to provide a guide for differential diagnosis purposes. Methods: A review of recent literature was performed to provide an update in CNS hypersomnias. Results: At clinical evaluation, narcolepsy patients report a good restorative potential of sleep together with the frequent occurrence of dreaming even during short-lasting naps. These features are mirrored by the neurophysiological evidence of REM sleep at sleep onset (SOREMP) during the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), a specific marker. Conversely, patients with idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) complain sleep inertia and prolonged nocturnal sleep. Polysomnographic studies show high sleep propensity on the MSLT or high 24-h total sleep time during continuous monitoring. Patients with insufficient sleep syndrome (ISS) can present with variable clinical EDS features in between narcolepsy and IH. ISS diagnosis is based on the clinical evidence of nocturnal sleep curtailment (weekdays versus vacations) associated with the disappearance of EDS complaint after sleep extension. Polysomnographic data are not required, but when the MSLT is performed, ISS patients can present with SOREMP arising from non-REM stage 2 sleep (vs narcolepsy patients entering into SOREM most frequently from wakefulness). Kleine-Levin Syndrome is characterized by recurrent episodes of enormously prolonged sleep time lasting days associated with abnormal cognition and behavior intermixed by asymptomatic periods, a sleep pattern that can be well documented by actigraphy. Conclusions: Different CNS hypersomnias present with specific features of EDS are useful to guide the clinician to apply and interpret appropriate neurophysiological investigations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSleep and Breathing
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 1 2019


  • Automatic behavior
  • Dreaming
  • Idiopathic hypersomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep inertia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Clinical Neurology


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