Sleep laboratory studies in restless legs syndrome patients as compared with normals and acute effects of ropinirole. 1. Findings on objective and subjective sleep and awakening quality

Neuropsychobiology. 2000;41(4):181-9. doi: 10.1159/000026658.


Although the restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder with a relatively high prevalence rate (8% in Austria) and leads to insomnia and excessive daytime tiredness, there is a paucity of sleep laboratory data concerning objective and subjective sleep and awakening quality. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate 12 untreated RLS patients as compared with 12 normal controls and subsequently measure the acute effects of 0.5 mg ropinirole (Requip((R))) - a nonergoline dopamine agonist - as compared with placebo. In 3 nights (adaptation, placebo, ropinirole night) sleep induction, maintenance and architecture were measured objectively by polysomnography, subjective sleep and awakening quality were assessed by self-rating scales and visual-analog scales, and objective awakening quality was evaluated by a psychometric test battery. In polysomnography, RLS patients demonstrated, as compared with normal controls, a decreased total sleep time (TST) and sleep efficacy, increased wakefulness during the total sleep period and frequency of nocturnal awakenings, increased sleep stage S1, decreased S2 and increased stage shifts. Subjective sleep quality tended to decrease, and morning well-being, mood, affectivity and wakefulness were deteriorated. In the noopsyche, fine motor activity and reaction time performance were deteriorated. Ropinirole 0.5 mg induced, as compared with placebo, an increase in TST, sleep efficacy, S2 sleep and stage shifts. In the morning, somatic complaints increased slightly, while fine motor activity and reaction time performance improved. Our findings suggest a key-lock principle in the diagnosis/treatment of RLS and a dopaminergic mechanism in its pathogenesis, which is supported by the data on periodic leg movements during sleep and arousals of the subsequent paper.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dopamine Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Dopamine Agonists / adverse effects
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Indoles / administration & dosage*
  • Indoles / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polysomnography
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects
  • Wakefulness / drug effects


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Indoles
  • ropinirole