How does EEG arousals and awakenings work in relation with periodic leg movements during sleep?
It is known that periodic leg movements are frequently accompanied by full awakenings or by signs of EEG arousals. The time relationship of these EEG arousals with leg movements varies from patient to patient. They may precede or follow leg movements or occur simultaneously. It is not clear whether these arousals trigger leg movements or, alternatively, whether both EEG arousals and leg movements are separate expressions of a common pathophysiological mechanism.
These EEG arousals are considered to be associated with leg movements if they occurred 10 seconds before/after or simultaneously with the onset of right or left tibialis muscle EMG potentials. It was found that 49.19% of EEG arousals occurred before leg movements, 30.61% occurred simultaneously and 23.18% occurred just after leg movements.
The number of EEG arousals was significantly higher in the 10 seconds preceding leg movement than simultaneously or in the 10 seconds following. Alpha activity was the phenomenon associated most frequently with leg movements, irrespective of its temporal organization and was significantly higher during the 10 seconds preceding movement.
Spindle and K-spindle activities were significantly higher before leg movement, whereas K-complex activity was significantly more frequent during leg movements. The number of awakenings was significantly higher after leg movements than simultaneously. These results indicated that leg movements are not primary, but rather are a phenomenon associated with an underlying arousal disorder.