Neurologically normal term infants sometimes present with repetitive, rhythmic myoclonic jerks that occur during sleep. The condition, which is traditionally resolved by 3 months of age with no sequelae, is termed benign neonatal sleep myoclonus. The goal of this review was to synthesize the published literature on benign neonatal sleep myoclonus.
The US National Library of Medicine database and the Web-based search engine Google, through June 2009, were used as data sources. All articles published after the seminal description in 1982 as full-length articles or letters were collected. Reports that were published in languages other than English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish were not considered.
We included 24 reports in which 164 term-born (96%) or near-term–born (4%) infants were described. Neonatal sleep myoclonus occurred in all sleep stages, disappeared after arousal, and was induced by rocking the infant or repetitive sound stimuli. Furthermore, in affected infants, jerks stopped or even worsened by holding the limbs or on medication with antiepileptic drugs. Finally, benign neonatal sleep myoclonus did not resolve by 3 months of age in one-third of the infants.
This review provides new insights into the clinical features and natural course of benign neonatal sleep myoclonus. The most significant limitation of the review comes from the small number of reported cases.