Issue Navigator

Volume 14 No. 02
Earn CME
Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Nocturnal REM Sleep Without Atonia Is a Diagnostic Biomarker of Pediatric Narcolepsy

Saadoun Bin-Hasan, MBBCH, FRCPC1,2; Aleksandar Videnovic, MD, MSc3,4; Kiran Maski, MD3,5
1University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 2Division of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 3Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; 4Movement Disorders Unit and Division of Sleep Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts; 5Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

Study Objectives:

Compare nocturnal REM sleep without atonia (nRWA) and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) between pediatric patients with and without narcolepsy and determine if the nRWA index is a valid diagnostic biomarker for narcolepsy.


Retrospective cohort study of children ages 6 to 18 years who completed a nocturnal polysomnogram (PSG) and Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). Our study sample included 11 patients with narcolepsy type 1 (NT1), 6 with narcolepsy type 2 (NT2), 12 with idiopathic hypersomnia (IH), and 11 with subjective hypersomnia (sHS). We compared group nRWA indices (epochs of RWA/total stage R sleep epochs) from the nocturnal PSGs and analyzed nRWA index receiver operating curve (ROC) statistics for narcolepsy diagnosis.


The median nRWA index of patients with NT1 was 15 to 30 times higher compared to sHS and IH (Ps < .005) but similar to that of the NT2 group (P = .46). RBD was present in 25% of patients with narcolepsy (NT1 and NT2). In comparing those with and without narcolepsy, the nRWA index area under the curve was 0.87 (0.6), 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.75 to 0.99, P < .001. The threshold of having ≥ 1% of stage R sleep epochs with nRWA yielded a sensitivity of 88.2%, 95% CI = 63.6–98.5 and specificity of 60.9%, 95% CI = 38.5 to 80.3 for diagnosis of narcolepsy. In contrast, a threshold of ≥ 8% yielded a specificity of 95.7%, 95% CI = 78.1 to 99.9 and sensitivity of 52.9%, 95% CI = 27.8 to 77.


The nRWA index is a very good diagnostic biomarker of pediatric narcolepsy. Depending on the clinical cutoffs utilized, this biomarker can identify more children/adolescents with narcolepsy using just the PSG or reduce false-positive diagnostic results.


Bin-Hasan S, Videnovic A, Maski K. Nocturnal REM sleep without atonia is a diagnostic biomarker of pediatric narcolepsy. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(2):245–252.

Supplemental Material

Login to view supplemental material

Please login to continue reading the full article

Subscribers to JCSM get full access to current and past issues of the JCSM.

Login to JCSM

Not a subscriber?

Join the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and receive a subscription to JCSM with your membership

Subscribe to JCSM:  $75/volume year for individuals or $140/volume year for institutions to access all current articles and archives published in JCSM.

Download this article*:   $20 to access a PDF version of a specific article from the current issue of JCSM.

*Purchase of an electronic download of JCSM provides permission to access and print the issue/article for personal scholarly, research and educational use. Please note: access to the article is from the computer on which the article is purchased ONLY. Purchase of the article does not permit distribution, electronic or otherwise, of the article without the written permission of the AASM. Further, purchase does not permit the posting of article text on an online forum or website.