Time course of arousal response during periodic leg movements in patients with periodic leg movements and restless legs syndrome

Emilia Sforza, Christophe Jouny, Vincent Ibanez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objective: The temporal evolution of periodic leg movements (PLM) and the relationship of their arousing effect on sleep episode has not been extensively investigated. We studied the nocturnal evolution of PLM associated or not with microarousal (MA) and associated with slow wave activity (PLM with slow wave activity) in 23 patients with PLM and/or restless legs syndrome (RLS). Methods: All subjects had PLM associated with MA or with slow wave activity as well as without MA and all slept for 4 sleep cycles. Spectral electroencephalogrpahic (EEG) analysis was done for the 4 sleep cycles to assess the nocturnal variation in slow wave activity (SWA). Results: Sixty percent of PLM were associated with MA, 4% were associated with slow wave activity whereas 36% showed no EEG changes. There was a clear prevalence of PLM with MA in stages 1 and 2 while PLM without MA were prevalent in slow wave sleep. The night-time PLM index progressively declined from the first to the last sleep cycle (P<0.005), without differences between PLM types, or between PLM and RLS patients. The decline of PLM duplicated the temporal trend in SWA over consecutive sleep cycles. Conclusions: PLM showed a typical pattern of progressive decline throughout the night following the exponential decline in SWA. These over-time variations occurred independently of changes in the rate of PLM associated or not with MA or associated with slow wave activity, suggesting that variations in arousal threshold and sleep propensity did not affect the PLM arousing effect. The PLM-related arousal response might be affected by interaction of circadian and sleep stage influences with the addition of sleep oscillatory processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1116-1124
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Arousal threshold
  • Periodic leg movements
  • Sleep homeostasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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