To determine if motor restlessness in the Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) shows a circadian rhythm with maximum at night, as previously found for subjective discomfort and periodic limb movements (PLMs), and to correlate RLS peak intensity with the core temperature cycle. Design:
Subjects underwent two days of normally timed wakefulness and sleep followed by a night and subsequent day of sleep deprivation. Activity was standardized through modified suggested immobilization tests (mSITs).
The study was conducted in a laboratory environment with a bedroom equipped for polysomnography during sleep and the mSITs.
Nine patients (mean age 59.8 ±
11.3 years [range: 33-72]; 4 males, 5 females) with clinically severe idiopathic RLS.
Patients were monitored with continuous ambulatory activity and core temperature recording. The mSITs were performed every three hours while subjects were awake. During the mSITs, subjective discomfort was measured every 15 minutes while motor restlessness was assessed through activity monitoring.
Measurements & Results:
Subjective discomfort and motor restlessness increased from a trough in the morning to a maximum at night in the hours following midnight. Peak intensity was found on the falling phase of the core temperature cycle, whose circadian rhythm appeared to be within the normal range for age.
An independent circadian factor modulates the intensity of RLS, which seems to peak on the falling phase of the core temperature cycle. Therefore, the diagnostic criteria that RLS occurs with rest and during the night have independent bases. Furthermore, RLS may be partially controlled by some process or substance whose level varies with the normal circadian rhythm.