A SLEEP 2018 abstract finds a strong correlation between systolic blood pressure increases and periodic limb movements in sleep in patients with RLS.

In a new study, researchers conducted a real-time assessment evaluating the relationship between periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMs) and changes in blood pressure in patients with restless legs syndrome (RLS). The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep.1 The findings also will be presented at SLEEP 2018.

According to the authors, 60% to 70% of RLS patients experience periodic limb movements, and these chronic sleep disturbances can negatively impact cardiovascular health—potentially leading to hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.

“Given the integrative relationship between sleep and control of the autonomic system, it is intuitive and important to examine the effects of these sleep abnormalities on the cardiovascular system in conditions associated with disturbed sleep,” says Mansoor Ahmed, MD, FCCP, FABSM, an author of the study.

For the assessment, 10 RLS patients ranging from 37- to 66-years-old underwent polysomnography, using a system that “allows for real time BP [blood pressure] derivations and measuring the anterior tibialis EMG power during PLMs,” according to the abstract. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine criteria for sleep stages, PLMI (PLMs per hour of sleep) and PLMAI (PLMs associated arousals per hour of sleep), were used to score the patient records. The data revealed a strong association between systolic BP increases and PLMs power. There was no evidence of any correlation between PLMs average power and PLMI and PLMAI.

“RLS is a common neuro-sleep disorder associated with sensory motor abnormalities with associated symptoms, both during wakefulness and sleep,” says Ahmed. “If in fact RLS is associated with hypertension, and given the fact that hypertension is a serious condition, our work will have important public health implications.” Although he says the changes in BP during periodic limb movements in sleep are not surprising, Ahmed emphasizes that what they are looking for now are the underlying mechanisms of this comorbidity.

Ahmed says the next step is to examine the impact of other sleep disorders on the cardiovascular system. “We need large prospective clinical studies to examine the clinical implications of sleep disorders—all sleep disorderson cardiovascular health.”

Ahmed also notes this assessment is only the first step in understanding the link between sleep disorders and cardiovascular problems. He says, “We need more data and studies before we can conclude the clinical relevance and implications of sleep disorders on cardiovascular health.”

Dillon Stickle is associate editor of Sleep Review.


1. Ahmed M, Jishi ZA, Scharf MB. 0672 Real time assessment of blood pressure changes during periodic limb movements in sleep of patients with restless legs syndrome. Sleep. 2018 April 27; 41(suppl_1):A249.