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Sleep Med. 2010 Apr;11(4):351-5. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2009.12.008. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

Effects of melatonin and bright light administration on motor and sensory symptoms of RLS.

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Sleep Disorders Center, Sacré-Coeur Hospital, Montréal, Canada; Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Canada.



A close temporal relationship was shown between the onset of melatonin secretion at night and the worsening of restless legs syndrome (RLS) symptoms, suggesting that melatonin may play a role in the genesis of this phenomenon. To test this hypothesis we studied the effects of the administration of exogenous melatonin and, conversely, the suppression of endogenous melatonin secretion by bright light exposure on the severity of RLS symptoms.


Eight RLS subjects were studied in three conditions: at baseline, after administration of melatonin and during bright light exposure. The severity of RLS symptoms was assessed by the suggested immobilization test (SIT), which allows quantification of both sensory and motor manifestations (SIT-PLM) of RLS.


Analyses showed a significant increase of SIT-PLM index when subjects received exogenous melatonin compared to both baseline and bright light conditions, but bright light exposure had no effect on leg movements compared to the baseline condition. Analyses also revealed a small but significant decrease in sensory symptoms with bright light exposure compared to baseline.


Exogenous melatonin may have a detrimental effect on motor symptoms, and bright light exposure produced small but significant improvement of leg discomfort. The study shows the interest of using the SIT to measure outcome of intervention in RLS. Further studies will be needed to assess the therapeutic value of bright light in RLS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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