Restless Legs Syndrome and Depression: Effect Mediation by Disturbed Sleep and Periodic Limb Movements

Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS) Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objective To investigate an association between restless legs syndrome (RLS) and depression and to what extent sleep disturbance, periodic limb movements during sleep (PLMS), and antidepressant medication mediate this relationship. Methods A cross-sectional analysis was conducted of the Osteoporotic Fractures in Older Men Study data in 982 men assessed for RLS (International RLS Study Group scale [IRLSS]) and depression (Geriatric Depression Scale [GDS]), who underwent actigraphy (for sleep latency/efficiency) and polysomnography (for PLMS). Men were split into three groups: no RLS (N = 815), mild RLS (IRLSS ≤ 12, N = 85), moderate-to-severe RLS (IRLSS > 12, N = 82). Depression was defined as GDS score ≥ 6. Logistic and linear regression assessed associations of RLS and depression or number depressive symptoms, respectively. Models were adjusted for age, site, race, education, body mass index, personal habits, benzodiazepine/dopaminergic medication, physical activity, cardiovascular risk factors, and apnea-hypopnea index. Results Of 982 men, 167 (17.0%) had RLS. Depression was significantly associated with moderate-to-severe RLS after adjustment (versus no RLS: OR [95% CI] 2.85 [1.23, 6.64]). Further adjustment for potential mediators attenuated effect size modestly, most for sleep efficiency (OR: 2.85–2.55). Compared with no RLS, moderate-to-severe RLS was associated with the number of depressive symptoms after adjustment (adjusted means [95% CI]; no RLS: 1.14 [1.05, 1.24] versus IRLSS > 12: 1.69 [1.32, 2.11]). Further adjustment for potential mediators did not alter effect size. For men with PLMS index at least median, number of depressive symptoms significantly increased as RLS category became more severe. Conclusion Depression is more common as RLS severity worsens. The RLS–depression relationship is modestly explained by sleep disturbance and PLMS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1105-1116
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • depression
  • periodic limb movement during sleep
  • restless legs syndrome
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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