How Restless Legs Syndrome Impacts the Quality of Your Sleep
The first week of February is Restless Legs Syndrome Awareness Week. While this week is set aside each year to promote understanding and awareness of this condition, many people suffer with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) all year round.
Restless Legs Syndrome drastically impacts your sleep as well as the quality of your life. Many people with RLS attribute their symptoms to other conditions, so understanding this syndrome can help you identify if your sleep is being impacted by RLS.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?
Restless Legs Syndrome is also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, and is a neurological sensorimotor disorder that causes you to feel a constant urge to move your legs whenever you are resting. This urge is also often paired with uncomfortable sensations in your legs.
Symptoms and Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
The symptoms of RLS can vary among those suffering from the condition. Often times people think their symptoms are indicative of other neurological, muscular, or orthopedic issues. According to the National Sleep Foundation, RLS symptoms can include:
• The overwhelming urge to move your legs while resting.
• Involuntary leg movements while you are awake
• Sudden jerking or movement of the legs and feet while you are sleeping
• Sleepiness while you are awake, paired with an inability to concentrate or focus
• Uncomfortable sensations in your legs. While less common, some people also experience sensations in their arms, torso, face, or genital area
• Varicose veins in your legs
While the exact causes of RLS remain unknown, researchers have been able to classify this syndrome into two types: Primary RLS and Secondary RLS.
Primary RLS is the most common form of this disorder, and is most likely genetic.
Secondary RLS is believed to be associated to certain medications, or as a result of another medical condition such as:
• Varicose veins
• Kidney failure
How Many People Are Affected by This Condition?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 10 percent of Americans suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome. Two percent of children are impacted by this condition as well, particularly if they also have ADHD.
However, many more people may be affected but attribute the symptoms to insomnia or depression. In fact, according to the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, 40% of people with RLS describe symptoms that might be diagnosed as depression without the consideration of a sleep disorder.
How Restless Legs Syndrome Impacts Sleep
According to the American Sleep Association, people suffering from RLS experience the most severe symptoms of this condition at night when they try to relax and go to sleep. The irresistible desire to move your legs while trying to sleep, along with the uncomfortable pulling, tugging, and itching sensations in your legs or other parts of the body significantly impact the amount and quality of sleep you are able to get each night.
Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS is a serious condition, but fortunately, it is also treatable. For many people, making changes in their diet, increasing iron intake through supplements, and easing symptoms with an exercise program can help alleviate the problems with sleeping at night.