Different periodicity and time structure of leg movements during sleep in narcolepsy/cataplexy and restless legs syndrome

Raffaele Ferri, Marco Zucconi, Mauro Manconi, Oliviero Bruni, Luigi Ferini-Strambi, Stefano Vandi, Pasquale Montagna, Emmanuel Mignot, Giuseppe Plazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives: To analyze periodic leg movements (PLM) during sleep in patients with narcolepsy and compare the results with those obtained in normal controls and subjects with restless legs syndrome (RLS). Methods: We recruited 40 HLA DQB1*0602-positive patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy, 22 with RLS, and 22 controls. The time structure of their polysomnographically recorded LMs was analyzed by means of an approach particularly able to consider their periodicity. Measurements and Results: Nineteen patients with narcolepsy had a PLM index greater than 15. The distribution of inter-LM intervals was clearly bimodal in RLS and narcoleptics, with 1 peak at 2 to 4 seconds and another at around 22 to 26 seconds; in the range 22 to 40 seconds, patients with RLS had values significantly higher than patients with narcolepsy. All periodicity parameters were significantly lower in the narcolepsy group. Finally, the distribution of the number of PLM per hour of sleep was bell shaped in normal controls and patients with narcolepsy, whereas patients with RLS showed a progressive decrease throughout the night. Conclusion: Most narcoleptic patients show a high number of LMs that are significantly less periodic than those of patients with RLS. PLM are in functional interrelationship with the cyclic alternating pattern, which is reduced in patients with narcolepsy; decreased arousal fluctuations during sleep may be one of the factors influencing the reduction in periodicity of LMs during sleep in narcolepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1587-1594
Number of pages8
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2006


  • Markov chain analysis
  • Narcolepsy-cataplexy
  • Periodic leg movements
  • Periodicity index
  • Restless legs syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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