Actor Rob Lowe is not looking forward to sending his youngest son off to college, because he fears empty nest syndrome will drive him crazy.

The former The West Wing star explains he felt the same way when he sent his oldest son, Matthew, 20, off to Duke University in North Carolina.

He tells People magazine, "If it is anything like... (that), I'm going to have to check myself into a padded cell. It is unbelievably painful to walk past that empty bedroom."

However, Lowe admits he appreciates how much the relationships between him and his sons benefit from the separation.

He continues, "When they come back home they've grown so much. Your relationship goes to a whole other level."

The actor sees another bright side to his sons' departures - the time alone will boost his relationship with his wife, Sheryl Berkoff.

He explains, "Long marriages always go through phases, and right now I am in a phase where I'm rediscovering my relationship with Sheryl. We are like giddy teenagers.

"I think it is because we're realising we are going to have a lot of alone time coming up when both the boys are out of the house."