Genesis of sleep bruxism: motor and autonomic-cardiac interactions

Arch Oral Biol. 2007 Apr;52(4):381-4. doi: 10.1016/j.archoralbio.2006.11.017. Epub 2007 Feb 20.


This is a short review paper presenting hypothesis to explain the mechanism that may be involved in the genesis of sleep bruxism (SB). In humans, SB is a repetitive sleep movement disorder mainly characterized by rhythmic masticatory muscle activity (RMMA) at a frequency of 1Hz and by occasional tooth grinding. Until recently, the mechanism by which RMMA and SB episodes are triggered has been poorly understood. It is reported that during light sleep, most SB episodes are observed in relation to brief cardiac and brain reactivations (3-15s) termed "micro-arousals". We showed that RMMA are secondary to a sequence of events in relation to sleep micro-arousals: the heart (increase in autonomic sympathetic activity) and brain are activated in the minutes and seconds, respectively, before the onset of activity in suprahyoid muscles and finally by RMMA in jaw closing masseter or temporalis muscles. In non-human primate study, we have shown that the excitability of cortico-bulbar pathways is depressed during sleep; no rhythmic jaw movements (RJM) are observed following intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) of cortical masticatory area (CMA) during sleep compared to the quiet awake state. The above results suggest that the onset of RMMA and SB episodes during sleep are under the influences of brief and transient activity of the brainstem arousal-reticular ascending system contributing to the increase of activity in autonomic-cardiac and motor modulatory networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Electromyography
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Sleep Bruxism / etiology*
  • Sleep Bruxism / physiopathology