Objective/background It has been debated in the literature whether patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) have a distinctive, evening-oriented chronotype. The few questionnaire-based studies that are available in the literature have conflicting results. The aim of our study was to define chronotype in patients with IGE by determining dim light melatonin onset (DLMO). Patients/methods Twenty adults diagnosed with IGE (grand mal on awakening [GM] in 7 cases and juvenile myoclonic epilepsy in 13 cases) were investigated by means of a face-to-face semistructured sleep interview, Morningness–Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire, and a melatonin salivary test with DLMO determination. Eighteen healthy subjects (HC) and 28 patients affected with cryptogenic focal epilepsy (FE) served as controls. Results The mean MEQ score was significantly lower in patients with IGE than that in patients with FE (49.1 ± 5.9 versus 56.1 ± 8.7 P < 0.01) but not significantly lower than that in HC (49.1 ± 5.9 versus 49.3 ± 8.6). Midsleep on free days corrected for sleep duration did not differ significantly between the three subject groups (04:59 ± 01:21 h, 04:37 ± 01:17 h, 04:29 ± 00:52 h). The mean DLMO time in patients with IGE (22:13 ± 01:34 h) occurred 49 min later than that in HC (21.24 ± 1 h), and the melatonin surge within the 30-minute time interval after DLMO in patients with IGE was significantly lower than that in HC (1.51 ± 2.7 versus 3.8 ± 3.6 pg/mL P = 0.045). Conclusions Subjective measures of chronotype do not indicate a definite evening-oriented chronotype in patients with IGE. However, the data concerning endogenous melatonin secretion indicate that patients with IGE tend to have a late circadian phase. Further studies are warranted in order to better define the late pattern of endogenous melatonin secretion in patients with IGE and to ascertain the role of this pattern in influencing behavioral chronotype in these subjects.
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