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J Sleep Res. 2006 Sep;15(3):339-46.

Sleep bruxism is associated to micro-arousals and an increase in cardiac sympathetic activity.

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Facultés de médecine dentaire et de médecine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada.


Sleep bruxism (SB) subjects show a higher incidence of rhythmic masticatory muscle activity (RMMA) than control subjects. RMMA is associated with sleep micro-arousals. This study aims to: (i) assess RMMA/SB episodes in relation to sleep cycles; (ii) establish if RMMA/SB and micro-arousals occur in relation to the slow wave activity (SWA) dynamics; (iii) analyze the association between RMMA/SB and autonomic cardiac activity across sleep cycles. Two nights of polygraphic recordings were made in three study groups (20 subjects each): moderate to high SB, low SB and control. RMMA episodes were considered to occur in clusters when several groups of RMMA or non-specific oromotor episodes were separated by less than 100 s. Correlations between sleep, RMMA/SB index and heart rate variability variables were assessed for the first four sleep cycles of each study group. Statistical analyses were done with SYSTAT and SPSS. It was observed that 75.8% of all RMMA/SB episodes occurred in clusters. Micro-arousal and SB indexes were highest during sleep cycles 2 and 3 (P < 0.001). Within each cycle, micro-arousal and RMMA/SB indexes showed an increase before each REM sleep (P <or= 0.02). The cross-correlation plot for micro-arousal index showed positive association from 4 min preceding SB onset in the moderate to high SB subjects (P <or= 0.06). The cross-correlation plot revealed that SWA decreases following SB onset (P <or= 0.05). Further cross-correlation analysis revealed that a shift in sympatho-vagal balance towards increased sympathetic activity started 8 min preceding SB onset (P <or= 0.03). In moderate to severe SB subjects, a clear increase in sympathetic activity precedes SB onset.

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