The Clinical Importance of Periodic Leg Movements in Sleep

Michela Figorilli, Monica Puligheddu, Patrizia Congiu, Raffaele Ferri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OPINION STATEMENT: Periodic leg movements during sleep (PLMS) are commonly found in patients with restless leg syndrome (RLS), but they may occur in other sleep disorders and several medical conditions. Their prevalence increases with age, but they can also be observed in children. During the last decades, very active research has been devoted to determine and understand the pathophysiology, associated events, and clinical significance of PLMS. This chapter tries to sum up the most relevant PLMS-related findings, focusing on the relationship between PLMS and the cardiovascular system, in order to understand the clinical implication of this complex motor phenomenon. PLMS have been associated with sympathetic overactivity, namely surges in nocturnal blood pressure and heart rate, without modification in global autonomic balance. Also, PLMS have been related to inflammatory cellular pathways, with elevated level of inflammatory markers, which are associated with cardiovascular risk. The PLMS-related modulation of the autonomic system and of inflammation may increase cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk in subjects with frequent PLMS. Moreover, also, comorbidities associated with PLMS may play a synergic role in worsening the cardiovascular risk and the consequent mortality and morbidity. Furthermore, little is known about pathophysiological correlates in children with PLMS and their chronic implication on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. A few studies have suggested that treating PLMS with dopaminergic drugs may reduce their associated sympathetic overactivity and modify disease progression. Definitely, further research is needed to assess the clinical impact of PLMS, associated or not with RLS, and above all the long-term impact of treating PLMS on cardiovascular risk, morbidity, and mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Review


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