Peculiar lifespan changes of periodic leg movements during sleep in restless legs syndrome

Raffaele Ferri, Lourdes M. DelRosso, Alessandro Silvani, Filomena I.I. Cosentino, Daniel L. Picchietti, Paola Mogavero, Mauro Manconi, Oliviero Bruni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this observational cohort study was to analyse the age-related changes of periodic leg movements during sleep using the newest international scoring rules, to expand past analyses, including patients in the paediatric age range, and also to analyse the changes of short-interval and isolated leg movements during sleep throughout the lifespan. One hundred and sixty-five patients (84 women) with restless legs syndrome were recruited in the following age groups: 16 preschoolers (≤5 years of age), 29 school-age children (6–12 years), 19 adolescents (13–17 years), 17 young adults (19–40 years), 47 adults (41–60 years) and 37 seniors (>60 years). Total, periodic, short-interval and isolated leg movements during sleep and periodicity indexes were obtained by polysomnography. The total index showed (quartic polynomial interpolation) a decrease before 10 years, followed by a steady increase up to 30 years, a relatively stable period until 60 years, and a final increase up to 80 years. This course was almost entirely due to changes in periodic movements. Isolated movements did not change significantly and short-interval movements showed only an increase in seniors. Our study indicates that, in restless legs syndrome, the total index shows a peculiar and unique course throughout the lifespan, mainly due to periodic movements. These age-related changes may mirror developmental changes in network complexity known to occur in dopaminergic circuits. These data further confirm the need to better assess the periodicity of leg movements in sleep during the human development period, in order to obtain clinically useful information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12896
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • lifespan
  • periodic leg movements
  • periodicity index
  • restless legs syndrome
  • scoring criteria
  • sleep leg movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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