Walters AS, Hening W, Rubinstein M, Chokroverty S
Neuroleptic-induced akathisia (NIA) is motor restlessness caused by dopamine receptor blocking antipsychotic agents. Nine patients with NIA and 11 patients with idiopathic restless legs syndrome (RLS) were studied polysomnographically. The sleep disturbances were milder in NIA than idiopathic RLS but increased numbers of awakenings and decreased sleep efficiencies were common to both groups. In addition, RLS patients demonstrated prolonged sleep latencies. Periodic movements in sleep (PMS) were present in only 5 of 9 patients with NIA but in all 11 patients with idiopathic RLS. In no NIA patient did we see the multiple, large amplitude, violent, resting myoclonic jerks of the legs that we saw during wakefulness in some of our more severe cases of idiopathic RLS. NIA patients tended to experience inner restlessness and idiopathic RLS patients tended to experience leg paresthesias as an antecedent to motor restlessness. Idiopathic RLS patients had symptoms that were worse at night and in repose far more frequently than patients with NIA. NIA and idiopathic RLS have similarities and differences. Because both NIA and idiopathic RLS are characterized by motor restlessness and sleep disturbances, the pharmacodynamics of antipsychotic medications may give clues as to both the cause and treatment of idiopathic RLS.