Patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) often suffer from non-motor symptoms, including sleep and autonomic dysfunctions, controlled by circadian regulation. To evaluate the alteration of circadian rhythm in PD patients, we investigated both rest activities and autonomic functions. Twenty-seven patients with idiopathic PD and 30 age-matched control subjects were recruited. Group comparisons of controls (mean age: 68.93 years), early-PD patients classified as Hoehn-Yahr (HY) stage 1&2 (mean age: 70.78 years), and advanced-PD as HY 3&4 (mean age: 68.61 years) were conducted. Measurement of rest activities was performed using Actigraph for 7 continuous days, and included measuring rhythm patterns (activity patterns recorded in or out of bed) and circadian rhythm amplitudes (power of the cycle being closest to 24h). A power spectral analysis of heart rate variability (HRV) using 24-hour ambulatory ECG was also performed. The actigraphic measurements indicated that statistically PD patients have lower activity levels when out of bed and higher activity levels when in bed, and that, the circadian rest-activity rhythm in PD decreases with disease severity. The HRV analysis showed that the total frequency component and low frequency/high frequency ratio were low in PD patients, suggesting that autonomic activities and the circadian rhythm of the sympathetic nervous system are attenuated in PD. This study elucidated the disorganization in the rest activities and HRV of PD patients as well as the gradual alterations in the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm disturbances are important to consider the mechanism of non-motor symptoms that occur from early stage of PD.
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