Pharmacologically induced/exacerbated restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movements of sleep, and REM behavior disorder/REM sleep without atonia: literature review, qualitative scoring, and comparative analysis

J Clin Sleep Med. 2010 Feb 15;6(1):79-83.


Background: Pharmacologically induced/exacerbated restless legs syndrome (RLS), periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS), and REM behavior disorder/REM sleep without atonia (RSWA) are increasingly recognized in clinical sleep medicine. A scoring system to evaluate the literature was created and implemented. The aim was to identify the evidence with the least amount of confound, allowing for more reliable determinations of iatrogenic etiology.

Methods: Points were provided for the following criteria: manuscript type (abstract, peer-reviewed paper); population size studied (large retrospective study, small case series, case report); explicitly stated dosage timing; identification of peak symptoms related to time of medication administration (i.e., medication was ingested in the evening or at bedtime); initiation of a treatment plan; symptoms subsided or ceased with decreased dosage or drug discontinuation (for RLS articles only); negative personal history for RLS prior to use of the medication; exclusion of tobacco/alcohol/excessive caffeine use; exclusion of sleep disordered breathing by polysomnography (PSG); and PSG documentation of presence or absence of PLMS. For RLS and PLMS articles were also given points for the following criteria: each 2003 National Institutes of Health (NIH) RLS criteria met; exclusion of low serum ferritin; and exclusion of peripheral neuropathy by neurological examination.

Results: Thirty-two articles on drug-induced RLS, 6 articles on drug-induced PLMS, and 15 articles on drug-induced RBD/ RSWA were analyzed.

Conclusion: Based on scores < or = 10 and trials of medication reduction/cessation, the strongest evidence available for drug induced RLS are for the following drugs: escitalopram; fluoxetine; L-dopa/carbidopa and pergolide; L-thyroxine; mianserin; mirtazapine; olanzapine; and tramadol. Since none of the PLMS articles assessed PLMI in trials of medication reduction/cessation, the strongest evidence based on scores > or = 10 are for the following drugs: bupropion, citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine. Based on scores > or = 10 and/or trials of medication cessation, the strongest evidence for drug induced RBD/ RSWA is for the following drugs: clomipramine, selegiline, and phenelzine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Nocturnal Myoclonus Syndrome / chemically induced*
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder / chemically induced*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / chemically induced*