Masseter EMG activity during sleep and sleep bruxism

T. Kato, Y. Masuda, A. Yoshida, T. Morimoto


The masseter muscle is involved in the complex and coordinated oromotor behaviors such as mastication during wakefulness. The masseter electromyographic (EMG) activity decreases but does not disappear completely during sleep: the EMG activity is generally of low level and inhomogeneous for the duration, amplitude and intervals. The decreased excitability of the masseter motoneurons can be determined by neural substrates for NREM and REM sleep. The masseter EMG activity is increased in association with the level of arousal fluctuations within either sleep state. In addition, there are some motor events such as REM twitches, swallowing and rhythmic masticatory muscle activity (RMMA), whose generation might involve the additional activation of specific neural circuits. Sleep bruxism (SB) is characterized by exaggerated occurrence of RMMA. In SB, the rhythmic activation of the masseter muscle can reflect the rhythmic motor inputs to motoneurons through, at least in part, common neural circuits for generating masticatory rhythm under the facilitatory influences of transient arousals. However, it remains elusive as to which neural circuits determine the genesis of sleep bruxism. Based on the available knowledge on the masseter EMG activity during sleep, this review presents that the variety of the masseter EMG phenotypes during sleep can result from the combinations of the quantitative, spatial and temporal neural factors eventually sending net facilitatory inputs to trigeminal motoneurons under sleep regulatory systems.


masseter; trigeminal motor system; sleep; micro-arousal;sleep bruxism

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