Objectives: The video-polysomnographic criteria of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) have not been well described. We evaluated the between-night reproducibility of phasic and tonic enhanced muscle activity during REM sleep as well as the associated behaviors and vocalizations of the patients.
Methods: Fifteen patients with clinical RBD underwent two consecutive video-polysomnographies. The amount of excessive phasic and tonic chin muscle activity during REM sleep was measured in 15 patients in 3-sec mini-epochs. The time spent with motor (minor, major, complex, and scenic) or vocal (sounds, mumblings, and comprehensible speeches) events was measured in 7 patients during REM sleep.
Results: There was a good between-night agreement for tonic (Spearman rho = 0.55, p = 0.03; Kendall tau = 0.48, p = 0.01) but not for phasic (rho = 0.47, p = 0.1; tau = 0.31, p = 0.1) excessive chin muscle activity. On the video and audio recordings, the minor RBD behaviors tended to occur more frequently during the second night than the first, whereas the patients spoke longer during the first than the second night.
Conclusion: The excessive tonic activity during REM sleep is a reliable marker of RBD. It could represent the extent of dysfunction in the permissive atonia systems. In contrast, the more variable phasic activity and motor/vocal events could be more dependent on dream content (executive systems).
Keywords: REM sleep behavior disorders; between-night variability; motor behaviors; phasic chin muscle; reproducibility; tonic chin muscle; vocalization.