Sleep-related breathing impairment in myotonic dystrophy

J Neurol. 1987 Dec;235(2):80-5. doi: 10.1007/BF00718014.


Respiratory failure has been described in myotonic dystrophy; it worsens during sleep but its central or peripheral origin has yet to be determined. Moreover, patients may present severely disturbed sleep and daytime somnolence. Eight patients with mild to moderate myotonic dystrophy were studied to assess breathing function while awake and during sleep by means of the pulmonary function tests, nocturnal polysomnographic examination and the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). Three patients had restrictive respiratory defects; none had signs of airway obstruction. All patients had very disrupted nocturnal sleep. Of six patients who underwent the MSLT only two showed a mild tendency to sleep during the day. Six patients had pathological apnoea plus hypopnoea index [(A+H)I] and there was a prevalence of central apnoeas. The apnoeas occurred while resting but awake and throughout all sleep stages. Only two patients (the ones with the least vital capacity) had episodes of progressive oxygen desaturation during rapid eye movement sleep, similar to those found in other restrictive disorders and in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is concluded that the breathing pattern characteristic of our myotonic dystrophy patients was the occurrence of central apnoeas both at rest while awake and during sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscular Dystrophies / complications
  • Muscular Dystrophies / physiopathology*
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology