Hypnic jerks are an underestimated sleep motor phenomenon in patients with parkinsonism. A video-polysomnographic and neurophysiological study

Sleep Med. 2016 Oct:26:37-44. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2016.07.011. Epub 2016 Aug 23.


Introduction: Hypnic jerks (HJs) are sudden contractions of one or more body segments occurring mostly at sleep onset. They are highly sporadic and affect all ages and both sexes with prevalence between 60% and 70% in the general population.

Study objectives: This study describes the frequency and the neurophysiological characteristics of HJs in a population of patients with parkinsonism by means of nocturnal video-polysomnographic recordings.

Methods: This is a prospective cohort study and is reported following the STROBE guidelines. We analyzed the clinical and video-polysomnographic data of the first 66 consecutive patients recruited in the ongoing prospective study "Bologna motor and non-motor Prospective study on Parkinsonism at onset" (BoProPark). Each patient underwent a full neurological workup including a whole-night video- polysomnography. Neurophysiological characteristics including the propagation patterns of the HJs were studied with an extended muscle montage polysomnography.

Results: We recorded a total of 62 HJs in 16 patients out of 66 (24%). Sleep parameters were not statistically different between patients with and without HJs. All HJs were spontaneous and occurred randomly throughout the night. Electromyographic analysis showed that muscle activity arose from different muscles with no prevalence of one over the other and without any ordered propagation. No recurring motor pattern of the jerks was detected.

Discussion and conclusions: Our findings demonstrated that HJs are a frequent, underestimated, sleep-related motor phenomenon in patients with parkinsonism. As they may represent a further cause of sleep disruption and insomnia, HJs should be actively examined. Neurophysiological analysis suggests a subcortical origin of HJs as shown previously for a healthy subject.

Keywords: Hypnic jerks; Myoclonus; Parkinsonism; Sleep fragmentation; Sleep starts; Video-polysomnography.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Myoclonus / complications
  • Myoclonus / physiopathology*
  • Nocturnal Myoclonus Syndrome / complications
  • Nocturnal Myoclonus Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / complications
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep Stages
  • Sleep*
  • Video Recording