Sometimes, when an individual has difficulty sleeping, there’s more to the problem than simply stress, a poor sleep schedule and bad eating habits. In some circumstances, the reason behind the sleep deprivation a person is experiencing is a sleep disorder, such as restless leg syndrome (RLS).
What is restless leg syndrome? It is a sleep disorder that affects the nervous system, occurs in both men and women and affects up to an estimated 15% of people worldwide. Those who suffer from this condition have the urge to move their legs (and sometimes their arms) to help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms that are felt in their appendages.
What are the symptoms? They typically include sensations such as creeping, crawling, aching, tingling, burning and pain in the legs (and/or arms). In addition, some people experience sudden jerking of the legs or arms, as well. The symptoms characteristic of restless leg syndrome typically occur when the afflicted individual is in a stage of rest, usually prior to falling asleep. Often, they become more noticeable in the evening and gradually worsen as the night wears on. When the sensations start, the person feels the urge to move their legs, which helps to relieve the symptoms but does not stop them from returning. The sensations that are felt may be mild or severe.
What causes restless leg syndrome? It is not entirely clear why this disorder occurs in some people. Research has found that an estimated half of all those who have been diagnosed with the condition also have a family member with RLS. That said, other medical conditions that have been linked to it include (but are not necessarily limited to): diabetes, arthritis, kidney failures, pregnancy, Parkinson’s disease and other nervous system diseases.
How does it affect sleep? Due to the fact that symptoms become worse at night, those with restless leg syndrome often have trouble falling asleep and tend to wake up several times throughout the night. Since the condition can prevent a person from receiving the restorative sleep they need, they may feel fatigued during the day and find it difficult to function due to exhaustion.
There are different treatments for restless leg syndrome that can help relieve the abnormal sensations and help the sufferer obtain better rest. However, treatment may vary depending on the individual case and the severity of the disorder, so it’s important for anyone who has or who may think they have this sleep disorder to consult with their doctor to learn more about it and discover how to manage it effectively.