Restless Legs Syndrome or RLS is a sleep disorder characterized by extreme discomfort that can only be eased by moving your legs. Restless Legs Syndrome occurs primarily at night, and disrupts sleep by the frequent need to move and sometimes painful throbbing sensations. Restless Legs Syndrome causes a person to generally move their legs every 20 to 30 seconds. Common symptoms of the sleep disorder are restlessness, discomfort increasing at night, urge to continually move your legs, irritation feeling, feet and toes become fidgety while you are sitting still.
While Restless Legs Syndrome is not a dangerous sleep disorder, it makes it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can alter a person’s sleep schedule and lead them to develop other, more severe sleep disorders. A person suffering from RLS may eventually experience insomnia or sleep deprivation. Because Restless Legs Syndrome hinders a person’s ability to fall asleep at night, they may become very tired during the day, which could trigger the onset of narcolepsy. Restless Legs Syndrome is very uncomfortable and can cause seriously detrimental sleep disorders. If you believe you are suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome you should contact your physician or a nearby sleep center.
What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by an imbalance of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine helps coordinate smooth movement throughout the body, and disruption of the flow of dopamine throughout the brain can trigger involuntary movement.
Iron deficiency is common in people experiencing Restless Legs Syndrome, which may also contribute to the condition. Many doctors believe there is a genetic component to Restless Legs Syndrome, as people with family members who have Restless Legs Syndrome are much more likely to have it. Certain chronic illnesses including kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, thyroid problems, varicose veins, and Alcoholism have also been connected to Restless Legs Syndrome. Some medications aggravate the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, including cold and flu medicine that contains antihistamine. Restless Legs Syndrome is enhanced by stress, which increases the difficulty of falling asleep even more. Doctors cannot identify a single root cause of Restless Legs Syndrome, but tend to see many of these factors when identifying someone with Restless Legs Syndrome sleep disorder.
Treating Restless Legs Syndrome
Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome focuses on treating the painful symptoms of RLS. Stimulating the legs with hot or cold packs, as well as taking a bath before going to sleep can help the muscles relax and decrease the urge to move your legs. Exercising during the day and massaging or stretching your legs may also help.
People experiencing Restless Legs Syndrome should be careful about consuming stimulants like caffeine or tobacco that make it more difficult to sleep. Medical treatment may be necessary for Restless Legs Syndrome patients. This could range from drugs that increase dopamine, muscle relaxants, sleeping pills or iron supplements. As always, follow your doctor’s advice when taking any medication to avoid dependency or overuse. Consult a sleep specialist to learn more about your sleep disorder.
You can learn more about Restless Legs Syndrome here.