The relation between abnormal behaviors and REM sleep microstructure in patients with REM sleep behavior disorder

Sleep Med. 2009 Feb;10(2):174-81. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2008.01.003. Epub 2008 Mar 24.


Objective: To investigate the temporal relation between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep microstructure (REMs, EMG activity) and motor events in REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).

Methods: Polysomnographic records of eight patients with RBD were analyzed and compared with those of eight sex- and age-matched controls. We examined sleep microstructure for REM sleep with and without REMs and phasic chin EMG activity and their temporal relation to motor events on video.

Results: All types of motor events were either more frequent in RBD patients than in controls (P<=0.007) or present solely in RBD patients. In RBD, major motor events were significantly more frequent during REM sleep with REMs than during REM sleep without REMs (violent, 84.0% vs. 16.0%, P<0.001; complex/scenic behavior, 78.1% vs. 23.2%, P<0.001; major jerks, 77.5% vs. 20.3%, P<0.001), whereas minor motor activity was evenly distributed (54.1% vs. 45.9%, P=0.889). Controls showed predominantly minor motor activity with rare myoclonic body jerks. The distribution of motor events did not differ between REM sleep with and without REMs (40.9% vs. 59.1%, P=0.262).

Conclusions: In RBD, major motor activity is closely associated with REM sleep with REMs, whereas minor jerks occur throughout REM sleep. This finding further supports the concept of a dual nature of REM sleep with REMs and REM sleep without REMs and implies a potential gate control mechanism of REM sleep with REMs for the manifestation of elaborate or violent behaviors in RBD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dreams / physiology
  • Dreams / psychology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Polysomnography
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder / physiopathology*
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder / psychology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Video Recording