A sleep disorder that is characterized by rhythmic movements of your legs and sometimes your arms during sleep is called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). PLMD is also known as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
It is not known what causes PLMD to occur but research has shown that those who have certain medical problems including Parkinson’s disease may be prone to PLMD. Those with narcolepsy commonly have PLMD.
The symptoms of PLMD are unusual leg or arm movements during sleep. Sometimes the individual with PLMD wakes up partially or fully but usually they do not wake and their bed partner has to tell them about the fact that they are kicking in their sleep.
The diagnosis can be made by the history given by the bed partner, or by an over-night study called an overnight polysomnogram, which is a test that records sleep, and bioelectrical signals that come from the body while the individual is asleep. A doctor may order blood tests to assess the level of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, thyroid function, and magnesium.
Several drugs such as anticonvulsant medications, benzodiazepines, and also narcotics can treat PLMD. Some doctors also use drugs that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease to treat PLMD. Using these drugs may reduce or completely eliminate the unusual leg or arm movements.
Doctors believes that taking caffeine containing beverages and foods may intensify symptoms of PLMD so products like coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks should be avoided if you have PLMD. Certain antidepressants can make the symptoms of PLMD worse.
PLMD can occur at any age but is more common in those who are middle-aged or elderly. Both males and females can both get PLMD / RLS.
PLMD used to be called nocturnal myoclonus but that name is not used anymore today.
Chronic sleep disruption, daytime sleepiness and PLMD is not a normal part of getting older and if you are experiencing these symptoms you should speak with a doctor about your symptoms so that a diagnosis and treatment can be determined.
Diabetes mellitus, iron deficiency, spinal cord tumor, spinal cord injury, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties, narcolepsy and uremia can lead to PLMD. Other things that can lead to PLMD are anemia, and certain medications or when individuals are going through withdrawal from sedative medications.
The leg movements can involve one leg or both. The movements can be slight or involve wild kicking and thrashing about while asleep.
Typically the movements last about 2 seconds but occur every 20 to 40 seconds.
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