You may be familiar with the tossing and turning that occurs when you’re unable to fall asleep at night. But for millions of Americans who suffer from sleep movement disorders, it’s the uncontrollable twitching once they climb into bed that prevents them from sleeping in the first place. These common sleep movement disorders can wreak havoc on your nightly slumber. Learn what you can do about it.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Approximately 10 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition in which the person has overwhelming, often unpleasant, urges to move the legs while relaxing. Not surprisingly, this can result in poor sleep quality. While the exact cause of RLS isn’t known, the disorder often runs in families. It affects both men and women and often worsens as people get older. The good news is that RLS can be treated with lifestyle modifications (such as limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and adjusting medication intake since some drugs can make RLS worse). Talk with your doctor: In some cases, meds that are used to treat various neurologic conditions can help.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
Similar to RLS, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) refers to uncontrollable repetitive movements that occur in the lower limbs every 20 to 40 seconds during sleep. These can include brief muscle twitches, jerking movements, and an upward flexing of the feet—episodes that can last from a few minutes to several hours. Because these frequent movements may cause awakenings or mini-arousals during the night, they can contribute to chronic insomnia and daytime fatigue. Talk with your doctor about treatment options, which may include medication. The underlying cause of PLMD isn’t known but it often accompanies RLS.
If you’ve ever woken up with a sore jaw, you may have experienced sleep bruxism, a condition which involves clenching or grinding your teeth during sleep. An estimated eight percent of adults have sleep bruxism. If it happens occasionally, it may not be harmful but regular sleep bruxism can lead to dental damage, facial pain, and sleep disturbances. The cause isn’t full understood, but some research suggests it is linked with anxiety, the use of certain medications, and sleep apnea. Reducing stress can help. For severe or ongoing bruxism, your dentist may recommend that you wear an oral appliance such as a bite guard while you sleep.