Is autonomic nervous system involved in restless legs syndrome during wakefulness?

Francesca Izzi, Fabio Placidi, Andrea Romigi, Benedetta Lauretti, Girolama A. Marfia, Nicola B. Mercuri, Maria G. Marciani, Camilla Rocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate cardiovascular autonomic function in patients with restless leg syndrome (RLS) by means of cardiovascular reflexes and heart rate variability (HRV) during wakefulness. Methods: Twelve RLS patients and 14 controls underwent cardiovascular function tests including head-up tilt test (HUTT), Valsalva maneuver, deep breathing, hand grip, and cold face. HRV analysis was performed in the frequency domain using both autoregressive (AR) and fast Fourier transform algorithms in rest supine condition and during HUTT. Results: There was a significant increase in systolic blood pressure values in supine rest condition and a trend toward a lower Valsalva ratio in RLS patients with respect to controls. The significant and physiological changes of HRV at HUTT detected in healthy subjects were not found in RLS patients. Conclusion: RLS patients exhibit a tendency toward hypertension, reduced amplitude of both sympathetic and parasympathetic responses at HUTT, as well as blunted parasympathetic drive to blood pressure changes. These findings, if confirmed by more controlled studies, might support the hypothesis of autonomic nervous system involvement during wakefulness and consequently an enhanced cardiovascular risk in RLS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1392-1397
Number of pages6
JournalSleep Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Cardiovascular reflexes
  • Heart rate variability
  • Periodic limb movements
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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