BOSTON—Patients with restless legs syndrome (RLS) are more likely to engage in nocturnal eating or have sleep-related eating disorder (SRED) than patients with psychophysiologic insomnia, according to research presented at the 26th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Dopaminergic agents reduced nocturnal eating and SRED by approximately half among patients with RLS.
Nocturnal eating, defined as breaking the overnight fast more than twice a month, can be dysfunctional or normal. “I would speculate that, in many cases, nocturnal eating is actually an intrinsic feature of RLS,” said Michael J. Howell, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “It’s not merely an association, but it’s actually part of the condition.”
A Neurologic Basis for Nocturnal Eating?
Dr. Howell and colleagues followed consecutive adult patients with difficulty falling asleep because of RLS or psychophysiologic insomnia to determine whether nocturnal eating in RLS is a product of the patient’s awakenings or whether its roots are intrinsic to RLS. The researchers also sought to examine whether patients with RLS were more likely to manifest SRED when exposed to sedatives and to determine whether dopaminergic drugs affected nocturnal eating behavior.
Using a structured questionnaire and evaluation, the investigators identified more than 300 patients with difficulty initiating sleep. The majority of patients had conditions such as circadian rhythm delay or chronic pain and were excluded. A total of 130 patients had RLS or psychophysiologic insomnia. A total of 88 patients had RLS, and 42 had psychophysiologic insomnia.