Narcolepsy type 1 and idiopathic generalized epilepsy: Diagnostic and therapeutic challenges in dual cases

Simone Baiardi, Stefano Vandi, Fabio Pizza, Lara Alvisi, Lucia Toscani, Elena Zambrelli, Paolo Tinuper, Geert Mayer, Giuseppe Plazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives: The aim of this study is to describe the possible co-occurrence of narcolepsy type 1 and generalized epilepsy, focusing on diagnostic challenge and safety of dual treatments. Methods and Results: Four patients with comorbidity for narcolepsy type 1 and idiopathic generalized epilepsy are reported: in three cases the onset of epilepsy preceded narcolepsy type 1 appearance, whereas in one case epileptic spells onset was subsequent. Patients presented with absences, myoclonic and tonic-clonic seizure type: in the patient with tonic-clonic seizures the dual pathology was easily recognized, in the other cases the first diagnosis caused the comorbid disease to be overlooked, independent of the timecourse sequence. All four patients underwent neurological examination, video-electroencephalogram during which ictal and interictal epileptic discharges were recorded, and sleep polysomnographic studies. Repeated sleep onset rapid eye movement periods (SOREMPs) were documented with the multiple sleep latency test (MLST) in all the four cases. All patients had unremarkable brain magnetic resonance imaging studies and cerebrospinal hypocretin-1 was assessed in two patients, revealing undetectable levels. The association of antiepileptic drugs and substances currently used to treat narcolepsy type 1, including sodium oxybate, was effective in improving seizures, sleep disturbance, and cataplexy. Conclusions: Narcolepsy type 1 may occur in association with idiopathic generalized epilepsy, leading to remarkable diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. Electrophysiological studies as well as a comprehensive somnologic interview can help confirm the diagnosis in patients with ambiguous neurological history. Sodium oxybate in combination with antiepileptic drugs is safe and effective in treating cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1257-1262
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Epilepsy
  • Narcolepsy type 1
  • Sodium oxybate
  • Video-EEG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology


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