Restless legs are in the top 5 of most common sleep disorders. Insomnia is number 1 in this list.
If you are a little unlucky, you will suffer from both. There are more sleep disorders that can occur in one person at the same time. For example, I know that there are fellow sufferers who have both RLS and sleep apnea. Sleeping then becomes very complicated.
Insomnia can stand on its own. It can also arise because you are already dealing with another sleep disorder.
In this blog I go deeper into what insomnia is. Of course I make the link with restless legs.
What is insomnia
To my surprise I read that as much as 10% of the Dutch population suffers from chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia is when you have sleeping problems at least three times a week and for at least three months.
Insomnia often makes it difficult to fall asleep. Sleeping through is difficult and you wake up (too) early in the morning. On average, people with insomnia sleep less than 5 hours a night.
Some symptoms of insomnia are similar to those of restless legs. Your concentration is less good. During the day you have to deal with irritability and fatigue. You have little energy and feel less emotionally stable.
Chronic poor sleep, like RLS, can lead to depression or anxiety symptoms. Conversely, depression can also lead to insomnia.
A while ago there was a series of radio and television broadcasts entitled ‘The Sleepless’. This was presented by Frits Spits.
In these broadcasts, in addition to sleep experts, behavioral therapists and psychologists, experience experts also spoke. Insomnia was made visible by showing people individually as they made their way through the night.
On the radio, during one of the broadcasts, there was also a short conversation with someone who suffered from restless legs. However, most of the attention went to people with insomnia.
Prior to the radio program I had contact with one of the editors. She indicated the intention was that a camera crew would come by at night for the television part. Somewhere between 1 and 4 in the morning.
I then pointed out to her that sleeping is already so complicated for people like me. The recordings for this program would mean pulling through the night for me. I can hardly afford that in the balance I have now.
Perhaps RLS works slightly differently than insomnia in this regard.
In the summer I often get up a few times for more than half an hour at night. The higher temperatures cause extra heat in my legs. Heat is a trigger for my restless legs.
I’ve noticed lately that I sometimes have a hard time getting back to sleep after being out of bed for a while. My mind is too awake and that makes sleeping difficult. Fortunately, relaxation exercises and calm breathing usually succeed in the end.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the disturbed sleep pattern of restless legs leads to insomnia in some people. The problem worsens when you start to worry.
I sometimes catch myself looking at the clock at night to see how many hours are left before the alarm goes off. I have read in sleeping tips that it is better not to do this. It just creates stress.
Dealing with poor sleep remains a great art.