The sleep lab doctor informed me that in addition to sleep apnea, I had restless legs syndrome. She didn’t seem as concerned about my restless legs than the apnea, so nothing was done to treat it. Similarly, when I asked my physician about the syndrome, he briefly described its causes and advised that I take a mineral supplement.
Because Restless Leg Syndrome only showed up during my stay in the sleep laboratory but was otherwise unnoticeable I didn’t do anything, but take the extra vitamins and minerals. I’m guessing I only have a very mild case of restless legs.
A couple of years ago, a random email made it through my spam filter. The subject line was “restless legs?”. I opened it only to find out that “Restless Legs Syndrome Week” was being commemorated. The message was breezy and accompanied by a small cartoon of a disembodied leg playing solitaire at a table. It also included a bullet-point list of symptoms.
One of the points struck home. “Many people also experience periodic limb movements or jerking of the arms or legs that occurs at the very beginning of the sleep cycle.” That is something I’ve noticed since childhood. I simply had assumed everyone experiences it.
Later that summer, I mentioned restless leg syndrome to my doctor again. He focused on my descriptions during the regular physical exam and then ordered another blood test to check my blood iron levels. The clinic confirmed the earlier diagnosis of restless legs syndrome. They informed me there is currently no cure for it but the nurse gave me a list of things to do to lessen my symptoms.
At home, I checked over the list to see which items applied to me. First, I saw the need to review my diet to make sure it’s well balanced. Second, was evening alcohol consumption. Since I very rarely drink, this didn’t apply. Third, caffeine consumption should be decreased or eliminated. This would be tough, but doable. Fourth, sleep deprivation. This was probably the most relevant item. I had been a shift worker and suffered from sleep apnea. I needed to schedule earlier bedtimes and make sure the bedroom is darker and more quiet.
I eased into the recommendations. I also consulted a personal trainer at the gym to implement preventative exercises I could do during my regular workouts. Cardio workouts were already a part of my daily routine, but they were too long. I needed to dial back on them. My trainer also showed me some useful stretches and yoga poses to use. All I needed to do, was make these habitual.
If you suspect you might have a sleep disorder or a condition like restless legs syndrome, do seek the advice of your physician. Together, you can find ways to alleviate the discomfort and annoyance of restless legs syndrome.