Late-Night Snacking Common Among RLS Patients

Published Online: Monday, March 17, 2014
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New research finds that patients with restless legs syndrome (RLS) often feel compelled to eat late at night, and that the habit may lead to an increase in body mass index (BMI).

The study, published in the February issue of Sleep Medicine, evaluated the prevalence of night eating syndrome in patients with RLS treated at the University of Bologna Centre for Sleep Disorders in Italy. Patients were interviewed via telephone about demographic information, RLS symptoms and severity, daytime sleepiness, and nighttime eating habits.

Of the 120 patients included in the study, 31% reported episodes of nocturnal eating. Among these patients, 17% met diagnostic criteria for night eating syndrome. Patients who reported episodes of late-night eating did not have different or more severe RLS symptoms compared with those who did not eat at night. However, patients who did report nighttime eating were older, had higher BMIs, were more likely to report insomnia, and were taking more drugs for concomitant diseases, more hypnotic agents, and more dopaminergic drugs.

Although the results indicate that nocturnal eating may often accompany RLS, the authors of the study are unsure whether the eating can be categorized as a known night eating syndrome or whether it is a behavior solely related to RLS.

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