What would you think if someone told you they felt like they had bugs crawling around in their leg muscles when they tried to go to sleep? You might be prompted to look up the phone number of a psychiatrist. But more often than not, this symptom is related to restless legs syndrome (RLS).
Moving the legs seems to help alleviate the discomfort, but to do so results in the person frequently awakening from sleep. And that, of course, leads to fatigue during the daytime.
Of the 12 million Americans with RLS, most are middle-aged adults, although the condition can occur at any age. RLS might also be suspected if similar symptoms appear among these high risk groups:
- Children who have "growing pains," or those labeled hyperactive
- Pregnant women, especially those in their third trimester
- Persons with a family history of RLS
- People who have iron deficiency, anemia, diabetes, kidney failure or rheumatoid arthritis
Improvement of RLS may occur with regular exercise and reduced caffeine consumption. Most often, RLS is treated with prescription medication and relaxation techniques.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
Does your bed partner ever complain that your legs suddenly jerk during sleep? One possible cause might be that you're dreaming of kicking the winning goal in a World Cup Soccer match, but more likely, you have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).
Sure, getting a diagnosis of PLMD is not as exciting as winning the World Cup, but at least your sleeping partner will be able to get a better night's sleep if you address the problem. And you will, too.
The involuntary movements of PLMD can occur every 10 to 60 seconds and usually happen in the first half of the night during NREM sleep. The movements themselves are not harmful, except perhaps to your bed partner. The main disadvantage is frequent waking, which leads to daytime fatigue. About one in three people over age 60 has PLMD. Treatment is the same as for restless legs syndrome.
If your limb movements take you up out of bed and around the house, you’re sleepwalking. Learn about this disorder on the next page.
For more information on how to get a good night's sleep, see:
- How Sleep Works
- Causes of Insomnia
- How to Fall Asleep
- Sleep Medications
- Natural Sleep Aids
- How to Help A Child Who Is Having Trouble Falling Asleep
- Is Lack of Sleep Making Me Fat?
- Is Science Phasing Out Sleep?