Vol 58, No 2 (2024)
Research Paper
Published online: 2023-09-05

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Effect of series of periodic limb movements in sleep on blood pressure, heart rate and high frequency heart rate variability

Marta A. Malkiewicz1, Malgorzata Grzywinska2, Krzysztof S. Malinowski3, Eemil Partinen45, Markku Partinen46, Wieslaw J. Cubala7, Pawel J. Winklewski3, Mariusz Sieminski8
Pubmed: 37668022
Neurol Neurochir Pol 2024;58(2):167-175.


Introduction. The phenomenon known as periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) has been linked to a change in autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and its effect on circulatory regulation. Autonomic dysfunction or dysregulation in patients with PLMS has been described in some domains; however, any relationship between heart rate variability (HRV) and PLMS has not been clearly established. HRV analysis is a recognised, non-invasive research method that describes the influence of the ANS on heart rate (HR). The aim of our study was to further investigate the dysregulation of autonomic HR control in patients with PLMS.

Material and methods. We undertook a retrospective analysis of the polysomnographic (PSG), demographic and medical data of five patients with a total number of 1,348 PLMS. We analysed HR, HRV HF, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) for 10 heartbeats before the series of PLMS and 10 consecutive heartbeats as beat-to-beat measurements. The presented method of using successive, short, 10 RR interval segments refers to the time-frequency measurement, which is very clear and useful for presenting changes in the calculated parameters over time and thereby illustrating their dynamics. This method allowed us to assess dynamic changes in HRV HF during successive PLMS series. Statistical analysis was performed using IBM SPSS Statistics (v. The Kruskal–Wallis test was performed to find statistically significant changes from baseline.

Results. No statistically significant changes in HR, SBP, or DBP were found in our group, although an increase in the value of the HRV HF was noted, suggesting an increase in intracardiac parasympathetic activity during the subsequent series of PLMS.

Conclusions. Our study indicates an increase in parasympathetic activity during the appearance of successive PLMS, which, with the simultaneous lack of changes in HR, may suggest an increase in sympathetic activity, and therefore the appearance of so-called ‘autonomic co-activation’ resulting in the possibility of life-threatening cardiac events.

Clinical implications. Our findings add to the literature information regarding HRV in PLMS, and highlight the need for further studies to elucidate the effects of these conditions on the ANS, and on cardiovascular health.

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