The minimum narcolepsy criteria “mean sleep latency (MSL) ≤8 min and ≥2 sleep onset rapid eye movement (REM) periods (SOREMPs) on polysomnography (PSG) and the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT),” according to The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Third Edition (ICSD-3), are not specific to narcolepsy. Recently, the characteristic sleep stage sequences preceding SOREMPs in narcolepsy have received attention, but their diagnostic utility remains unclear.
We retrospectively reviewed PSG/MSLT records and chart data for 102 Japanese patients with hypersomnia and at least one SOREMP. We examined the sporadic rates of two sleep stage sequences preceding the SOREMPs-wakefulness or stage 1 to REM (W/S1→R) and stage 2 to REM (S2→R)-comparing these between patient groups with narcolepsy type 1 (N = 28), narcolepsy type 2 (N = 19), and other hypersomnia (N = 55). We also examined the utility of three simple indices using the occurrence of W/S1→R SOREMPs for distinguishing between narcolepsy and other hypersomnia in patients who satisfied the minimum narcolepsy criteria.
W/S1→R SOREMPs were significantly more frequent in narcolepsy than in other hypersomnia, and this tendency was also observed even in the patients who satisfied the minimum narcolepsy criteria. The three indices had moderate sensitivities and specificities for distinguishing between narcolepsy and other hypersomnia in patients satisfying the minimum narcolepsy criteria.
The W/S1→R pattern was observed significantly more frequently in narcolepsy than in other hypersomnia, suggesting it may help with differentiating narcolepsy from other hypersomnia in patients demonstrating the narcolepsy criteria, although its ability to do so may be modest.

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