The aim of this study was to evaluate quantitatively the amplitude of the submentalis muscle EMG activity during sleep in controls and in patients with idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) or with RBD and multiple system atrophy (MSA). We recruited 21 patients with idiopathic RBD, 10 with MSA, 10 age-matched and 24 young normal controls. The average amplitude of the rectified submentalis muscle EMG signal was used for the assessment of atonia and a Sleep Atonia Index was developed; moreover, also chin muscle activations were detected and their duration and interval analyzed. The Sleep Atonia Index was able to distinguish clearly REM from NREM sleep in normal controls with values very close to 1 in young normal subjects and only slightly (but significantly) lower in old controls. Idiopathic RBD patients showed a further significant decrease of this index; MSA patients showed the lowest values of REM Sleep Atonia Index, which were very well distinguishable from those of normal controls and of idiopathic RBD patients. The distribution of the duration of chin activations was monomodal in all groups, with idiopathic RBD patients showing the highest levels. This study is a really quantitative attempt to provide practical indices for the objective evaluation of EMG atonia during REM sleep and of EMG activations. Our proposed Sleep Atonia Index can have a practical application in the clinical evaluations of patients and represents an additional useful parameters to be used in conjunction with the other criteria for the diagnosis of this sleep motor disorder.