Restless Legs and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is often associated with sleeping problems. One of those potential sleep problems is restless legs.

I personally wouldn’t immediately think of Alzheimer’s disease when I think of RLS. However, I read that this combination is not uncommon. That made me curious, of course.

In this blog I discuss what Alzheimer’s is. I then look at how the features of this disease might relate to a condition like restless legs.

What is Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. Alzheimer’s usually starts with memory problems.

The person in question initially has difficulty remembering new information. Memories from long ago are easier to recall. Eventually, however, the long-term memory also disappears.

As the disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to mentally keep things in order. One manifestation of this is that people start to take care of themselves and their environment less well. Some other manifestations are language and speech problems, disorientation and mood swings.

Alzheimer’s disease causes accumulations of a type of protein in nerve cells. These accumulations destroy nerve cells and connections between nerve cells.

The course of the disease varies from person to person. Some deteriorate very quickly. For others, it can take years for the environment to notice.

There are currently no drugs to cure the disease. However, certain symptoms can be treated, so that complaints are reduced.

Restless legs

During the course of the disease process, people with Alzheimer’s have difficulty understanding time. They become confused and restless at night. This causes a disturbed day and night rhythm.

Alzheimer’s is therefore often associated with sleep disorders. One such sleep disorder is restless leg syndrome. Other examples include sleep apnea and insomnia.

Poor sleep speeds up the disease process. Cognitive functions deteriorate faster and people suffer from more stress due to lack of sleep. Depression is also common. It is therefore important to pay attention to the treatment of these sleeping problems.

There are also studies that suggest that sleep and dementia work both ways. Dementia causes sleeping problems, but poor sleep may also increase the risk of dementia.

Good sleep hygiene is therefore of great importance. I already listed a number of sleeping tips in a previous blog. These also apply here.

Examples include a stable day and night rhythm, sufficient physical activity, a quiet sleeping environment and avoiding substances such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol.

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