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Volume 14 No. 01
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Polysomnography-Detected Bruxism in Children is Associated With Somatic Complaints But Not Anxiety

Candice A. Alfano, PhD; Joanne L. Bower, PhD; Jessica M. Meers, MA
Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston, University of Houston, Houston, Texas

Study Objectives:

Sleep bruxism (SB) is common in children and is associated with somatic symptoms and sleep disturbance. Etiological theories posit the role of anxiety, suggesting youth with anxiety disorders may be at high risk for SB, but empirical data are lacking. Furthermore, parent report rather than polysomnography (PSG) has been used to examine SB-anxiety relationships in children. We examined rates of PSG-detected compared to parent-reported SB in children with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and healthy controls. Associations among SB, somatic complaints, and sleep disturbance were also examined.


Thirty-one children, aged 7–11 years, completed 1 night of PSG monitoring and 7 daily reports of somatic symptoms. Bruxism events were scored during stage R sleep, stage N1 sleep, and stage N2 sleep.


Almost one-third of children showed evidence of SB based on PSG. No associations were identified between parent-reported and PSG-detected SB. Rates of SB did not differ between anxious and control groups, though children with GAD showed more tonic bruxisms during stage R sleep. Presence of SB predicted more muscle aches and stomach aches, and children with SB had more awake time after sleep onset than those without bruxism.


Results indicate poor concordance between PSG-detected and parent-reported SB in children, suggesting that parent report alone is not a reliable method for detection. The lack of association between SB and anxiety status suggests that stress sensitivity rather than anxiety per se may be predictive of SB. Associations between SB, somatic symptoms, and sleep disturbance are congruent with the broader literature.


Alfano CA, Bower JL, Meers JM. Polysomnography-detected bruxism in children is associated with somatic complaints but not anxiety. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(1):23–29.

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