Rhythmic masticatory muscle activity (RMMA) is the characteristic electromyographic pattern of sleep bruxism (SB), a sleep-related motor disorder associated with sleep arousal. Sleep arousals are generally organised in a clustered mode known as the cyclic alternating pattern (CAP). CAP is the expression of sleep instability between sleep maintaining processes (phase A1) and stronger arousal processes (phases A2 and A3). This study aimed to investigate the role of sleep instability on RMMA/SB occurrence by analysing CAP and electroencephalographic (EEG) activities. The analysis was performed on the sleep recordings of 8 SB subjects and 8 controls who received sensory stimulations during sleep. Baseline and experimental nights were compared for sleep variables, CAP, and EEG spectral analyses using repeated measure ANOVAs. Overall, no differences in sleep variables and EEG spectra were found between SB subjects and controls. However, SB subjects had higher sleep instability (more phase A3) than controls (P=0·05). The frequency of phase A3 was higher in the pre-REM sleep periods (P<0·001), where peaks in RMMA/SB activity were also observed (P=0·05). When sleep instability was experimentally increased by sensory stimuli, both groups showed an enhancement in EEG theta and alpha power (P=0·04 and 0·02, respectively) and significant increases in sleep arousal and all CAP variables. No change in RMMA/SB index was found within either groups (RMMA/SB occurred in all SB subjects and only one control during the experimental night). These findings suggest that CAP phase A3 may act as a permissive window rather than a generator of RMMA/SB activity in predisposed individuals.
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