Do you know someone who twitches their leg all night? Or someone who feels like they just have to move their legs in the evening, or when sitting in a cramped theater? Chances are, they may be suffering from a movement disorder.
What are Movement Disorders?
It is normal to move some during sleep, to change position, or have a few rhythmic movements. In Sleep Related Movement Disorders a person moves part of their body involuntarily. When these movements are associated with sleep disturbance or impaired daytime functioning they are classified as a disorder. Commonly the arms or legs move, but in some cases the whole body is involved, as in Sleep Related Rhythmic Movement Disorder. Tooth grinding at night, called Bruxism, is another movement disorder. Let’s touch on the most common disorders.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
5-10% of Americans are thought to suffer from this disorder. There is an irresistible urge to move the legs or feet, often accompanied by an uncomfortable or painful feeling deep in the legs. RLS is usually worse in the evening or in cramped places like airplanes, and is better with movement or in the morning. These symptoms can make it difficult to fall asleep at the beginning of the night, or return to sleep after awakening. Restless Legs Syndrome tends to run in families. RLS can be associated with iron deficiency, and for some people treating the iron deficiency will resolve their symptoms.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
About 80-90% of patients who have RLS have Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep. These are repetitive, stereotypical movements of the lower extremity which may be as subtle as flexing the big toe. These movements will disrupt sleep by causing brief awakenings that break up the normal sleep cycle, causing less restorative sleep. Patients frequently will be unaware of these movements, it is only during the overnight sleep study that it is diagnosed. Patients will however be aware of being fatigued during the day, and also have higher rates of depression, and attention deficit.
Because these disorders on our daytime health and well-being they need to be taken seriously and effectively treated. Since people are unaware that these movements occur, please bring it to your bedpartners’ attention if they are moving excessively in his sleep. Who knows, you just might be able to get a better nights sleep too!