Dissociation of body-temperature and melatonin secretion circadian rhythms in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome


Professor of Medicine (Diabetes and Endocrinology), Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK


SUMMARY. Many patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) display features of hypothalamic dysfunction. We have investigated aspects of circadian rhythmicity, an important hypothalamic function, in 20 CFS patients and in 17 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects. There were no differences between the two groups in the amplitude, mesor (mean value) or timing of the peak (acrophase) of the circardian rhythm of core temperature, or in the timing of the onset of melatonin secretion. However, the CFS patients showed no significant correlation between the timing of the temperature acrophase and the melatonin onset (P< 0.5), whereas the normal significant correlation was observed in the controls (P< 0.05). Dissociation of circadian rhythms could be due to the sleep deprivation and social disruption, and/or the reduction in physical activity which typically accompany CFS. By analogy with jet-lag and shift-working, circadian dysrhythmia could be an important factor in initiating and perpetuating the cardinal symptoms of CFS, notably tiredness, impaired concentration and intellectual impairment.