Restless legs syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system in which people experience an irresistible urge to move their legs. In addition to the discomfort and distress that can accompany the condition, people with restless legs syndrome may find that they have difficulty sleeping. This post is all about restless legs syndrome and explains what causes it, what are the symptoms, and what treatment options are available for RLS.
What Are Restless Legs Syndrome?
People with restless leg syndrome experience unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in their legs and have an irresistible urge to move them. The most common symptoms of hives usually occur in the late afternoon or evening hours and are often most severe at night when a person is lying down. Sitting for long periods of time can lead to leg cramps, which may occur when someone is inactive, and sitting for extended periods for example when taking a trip by plane. Your symptoms may increase in severity at night so it could be more difficult to fall asleep or get back to sleep after waking up.
Moving your legs or walking can temporarily alleviate the discomfort but the sensations are likely to come back if you stop moving. Restless leg syndrome is considered a sleep disorder because it’s often triggered by sleeping and also considered a movement disorder because it involves the restless leg muscle group, which has to be moved to relieve the uncomfortable sensations. It is best characterized as a neurological sensory disorder, and the symptoms are produced by the brain itself.
Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:
Leg (or arm) discomfort: Adults often describe these unpleasant sensations in their limbs as creeping, itching, pulling, crawling, tugging, throbbing, burning, or gnawing. These feelings often occur at bedtime but may occur at other times of limb inactivity.
Urge to move legs (or arms): There are times when you want to move your limbs especially when you are resting, such as when sitting or lying down.
Sleep disruption: Most people need an extra half hour to fall asleep. When the urge to move your limbs to relieve the discomfort is strong. It’s not always easy to get quality sleep. Sometimes you may find it difficult to stay asleep.
Bedtime behavior problems: Because of the discomfort, you may have to get out of bed to stretch your limbs to relieve the discomfort.
Daytime sleepiness: Problems with falling asleep and staying asleep can cause daytime sleepiness.
Behavior and work performance problems: Due to poor sleep quality, many people experience daytime behavior problems (irritability, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, etc) and may have trouble focusing at work.
Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
Most cases of restless legs syndrome aren’t known to have a cause, but your genes might play a role in how often or how
It’s not clear what causes most cases of restless legs syndrome, but your genes could be at play. It might also be tied to:
Chronic diseases. Long-term medical conditions can include RLS symptoms, such as iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure or renal disease, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy.
Medications. Some medications can make your symptoms worse, including anti-nausea drugs, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and cold and allergy medications with antihistamines.
Pregnancy. It’s normal for many women to have RLS during pregnancy. The symptoms usually go away within about a month after the baby is delivered.
Lifestyle. Sleep problems, including those related to sleep apnea, can trigger symptoms or make them worse, and the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use will also contribute to worsening your symptoms.
Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome
You’ll need to have a complete medical history and a physical exam to help your doctor find out what’s causing your symptoms. In addition, tests, such as lab tests or a sleep study, may be done. Restless legs syndrome currently has no test to diagnose it.
The diagnosis of RLS in children can be especially difficult because the physician often relies on the patient’s description of symptoms. It is even more difficult when dealing with children to make a diagnosis of RLS when it comes to pediatric cases. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can sometimes be mistaken for growing pains or a case of not having an attention span.
Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome
The goals of treatment for RLS are to stabilize symptoms and improve sleep consistency. There are both non-medicinal approaches and drug treatments available to manage RLS.
Home Care Tips for Restless Legs Syndrome
The following approaches may be used to reduce symptoms in patients with mild or moderate RLS and may be used in combination with medication in RLS patients who have severe symptoms.
Sleep hygiene: It means creating a bedroom environment and a daily routine that supports high-quality sleep. Sleep hygiene means creating a room environment that’s conducive to good sleep, along with a daily routine that supports it.
Exercise: Exercising regularly might help reduce the frequency of your restless legs. Studies have shown that RLS patients had a 39% reduction in symptom severity after six weeks of engaging in an exercise program compared to an 8% decrease in those who didn’t exercise.
Pneumatic pressure therapy: A pneumatic compression device will help your circulation and speed recovery by increasing blood flow to your lower legs. Pneumatic compression devices are used to improve blood flow to the legs. They do this by squeezing the legs to improve circulation.
Massage and hot baths: There are no scientific studies showing that using massage or bathing the legs helps RLS, but it’s widely recommended to use massage and hot baths to help ease the leg symptoms in RLS.
Insomnia is when you can’t sleep and it’s hard for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.
It’s best to go to the doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping for more than two weeks.
Over-the-counter sleep aids can help you fall asleep, but they can be dangerous if you’re pregnant or have a heart condition.
Insomnia can affect your life in many ways. You may feel tired during the day and have trouble concentrating. Also, it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re anxious or depressed.
RLS is a chronic disorder that affects both the quality of life and the work performance of people who have it. The condition usually starts in middle age and is most common among women. It’s a common problem, and there are effective treatments available. However, because the symptoms of the disorder are often mistaken for other conditions, the condition is often underdiagnosed and underreported. If you or someone you know has RLS, don’t let it go untreated.
If you want to know more about different sleep related disorder check out here.