Sleep Med Psychophysiol.  1997 Dec;4(2):191-200.

Effects of Movement Intervals on Sleep Architecture in Subjects with Periodic Limb Movements during Sleep

  • 1Department of Neuropsychiatry and Division of Sleep Studies, Seoul National University Hospital.
  • 2Department of Neuropsychiatry, Gil Medical Center, Gachon Medical College.
  • 3Division of Sleep Studies, Seoul National University Hospital.


OBEJECTIVES: Periodic limb movements during sleep(PLMS) may cause arousals that may lead to non-restorative sleep. PLMS is characterized by long sleep latency, sleep fragmentation, frequent stage shifts, and rarity of stages 3/4 NREM sleep on polysomnography. However, controversies have existed and it still remains to be elaborated whether PLMS actually causes insomnia, since normal persons happen to have PLMS. Clinically, it would be crucial to know factors which might disturb sleep in PLMS. We became interested in Coleman's theory(1980) that invariant periodic movements disturb patients' sleep less. Though, Coleman's study seems to have been confounded by including PLMS patients with various co-morbid sleep disorders. Therefore, we attempted to study in patients only with PLMS the effects of movement patterns on sleep architecture. METHOD: In 27 patients diagnosed as having PLMS only with clinical interview and nocturnal polysomnography, we studied the relationship between the movement patterns such as mean duration and variability of periodic limb movement's interval and the sleep architecture variables.
The shorter and the more regular the limb movement intervals were, the fewer arousals followed. The movement intervals of the older patients were shorter and more regular than the younger patients'. The probability of the accompanyng arousal with each limb movement increased as the duration and variance of the movement intervals increased. It decreased as the age and the frequency of limb movements increased. Among these factors the most significant one was the mean duration of the movement intervals. In other words, the shorther the movement intervals were, the less disturbed sleep was.
PLMS frequency increases with aging but the probability of the accompanying arousal with each movement decreases with aging. Sleep-disturbing effects of PLMS depends more on the duration and variability of movement intervals than the PLMS frequency.


Periodic limb movements during sleep; Movement interval; Sleep architecture; Polysomnography
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