If you are experiencing irresistible urges to move at night or while sleeping, you may have restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, and approximately 7-10% of adults experience RLS. And although “leg” is in the name, it could affect your arms or even your entire body.
The urges that people experience due to RLS don’t go away until they move. And since symptoms typically get worse at night, it can make going to and staying asleep extremely difficult. So keep reading if you’re ready to get a good night’s sleep. We’ll tell you about RLS, symptoms, causes, and what treatments are available to provide you relief.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
RLS is a problem with your nervous system that gives you an unstoppable urge to move, and the urge is not relieved until you do. RLS typically happens when someone has been sitting down for an extended amount of time or laying down and typically worsens at night. Because it can affect your sleep, it’s considered a sleep disorder.
Who Can Get RLS?
Anyone, including children, can experience RLS. Symptoms can start at any age, but the chance of having RLS increases as you age, and it is more common in women.
Causes of RLS
Studies have shown that 40-90% of people with RLS have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) affected. In addition, patients with a genetic link to RLS typically develop symptoms early in life (before age 45) than patients without a genetic link.
There are also medical problems that can lead to the development of RLS. Some of these conditions include:
- Iron deficiency
- Parkinson’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Medications such as allergy medications, antidepressants, and anti-nausea medications can also contribute to developing RLS. And the consumption of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine can aggravate symptoms.
Below you will find symptoms of RLS:
- Discomfort in the legs or arms – These sensations have been described as itching, crawling, tugging, creeping, pulling, throbbing, gnawing, or burning, and usually occur at bedtime or any other time when you are not moving.
- Uncontrollable urge to move – The only way to relieve the discomfort is to move.
- Disrupted sleep – You may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to the desire to move.
- Daytime drowsiness – Since you have difficulty sleeping, you may experience sleepiness during the day.
- Mood and performance problems – Since you aren’t sleeping well, you may experience moodiness, be more irritable, or have difficulty concentrating. It can also lead to poor work performance.
How to Get an RLS Diagnosis
There are no tests specific to RLS. Your doctor will examine your medical history, perform physical and neurological exams, and request a blood test to rule out other health issues. They may also recommend a sleep study. After they have all this information, they can determine if you have restless leg syndrome.
Treatment of RLS is dependent upon how intense your symptoms are. You and your doctor should discuss treatment if your quality of life suffers because of insomnia or extreme daytime drowsiness. If your RLS is due to medical disorders, treatments will be specific to that medical issue.
If symptoms are mild, the first course of action is typically a non-drug treatment plan. Some of these treatments may include:
- Regular exercise like riding a bike or walking (avoid intense exercise) a few hours before bed.
- Change your sleep habits. You should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. You should also avoid watching television, reading, or being on your phone or computer while in bed.
- Avoid (or limit) caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, and some medication), nicotine, and alcohol.
- Use a cold compress, heating pad, or rub your legs to provide relief from discomfort. You can also consider massage, walking, light stretching, acupressure, or other techniques to aid in relaxation.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Magnesium supplements
- Reduce stress as much as you can.
You can reverse RLS if an iron deficiency is the cause of your RLS. Your doctor may recommend an iron supplement if your blood tests show low iron levels.
Your doctor may prescribe you medication to treat your RLS for severe or frequent symptoms. Here are some options:
- Dopamine agonists will help control the urge to move and help with uncontrolled leg twitches while you sleep.
- Anti-seizure medications can slow or block pain signals from the nerves in your legs.
- Benzodiazepines will sometimes be prescribed, but typically only in severe cases because they are highly addictive and have side effects.
- Opioids can be used but usually aren’t prescribed unless other efforts were unsuccessful due to how highly addictive they are.
Let DreamZz Sleep Center Help You Get a Restful Night’s Sleep
While RLS doesn’t lead to serious health conditions, it can dramatically affect your sleep. And lack of sleep can drain you mentally and physically and lead to numerous health problems.
DreamZz Sleep Center can help you set up a treatment plan to kick RLS to the curb quickly. At some major sleep facilities, you will find yourself on a three to four month waiting list. Not at DreamZz! We guarantee a consultation and sleep study within one to two weeks of your initial call. That means treatment can start in less than a month.
Don’t lose any more sleep. Schedule your consultation today!