I’ve noticed that restless leg syndrome is not well known to the general public. People do not really have an idea of what its consequences might be. However, regular poor sleep undeniably affects many things in daily life. So it shouldn’t be dismissed as a small thing. I have heard from fellow sufferers that even now many general practitioners do not really know what to do with a complaint such as restless legs. Unfortunately, it is therefore not always taken seriously.
Not sleeping well – for whatever reason – most people do not like it. The day after, you feel exhausted. However, if you systematically lie awake and even have to get out of bed many times a night because lying is no longer bearable, it becomes a lot more difficult to function normally during the day. In such a situation you feel chronically tired and you are never really well rested when you get up.
What does not help, of course, is if you experience stress as a result of this. For many conditions, stress and worry often make complaints worse. However, staying calm if you don’t settle down night after night, even though you’re still so tired, is a real trick. You might want to lie down for a while during the day. However, there is a chance that the restless legs will also reappear. You may conclude that in such a situation you are dealing with a true sleep disorder, with all its consequences.
When I look for a definition of a sleep disorder, Wikipedia gives me the following description: “A sleep disorder is a neurological disorder that disrupts the sleep patterns of a human or animal. Both the disruption of REM sleep and non-REM sleep, especially slow wave sleep, reduce mental and emotional well-being during the day. ”
According to the Netherlands Sleep Institute, the most common sleep disorders are:
• Sleep apnea (interruptions of breath)
• Insomnia (sleeplessness)
• Parasomnia (“wrong” sleep) and shift disorders (disruption of sleep-wake rhythm)
• Restless legs
Sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) involves repeated stopping of breathing during sleep. The person in question wakes up every time and does not get to deep sleep. OSAS is a chronic condition.
Insomnia or sleeplessness can be divided into three forms: difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night or waking up too early. These three can also occur in combination. Insomnia often has an external cause.
Snoring or ronchopathy is also considered a sleep disorder. Both the person who snores and the person next to it suffer from this. Severe cases of snoring may be related to sleep apnea. The snoring sound occurs when the airway becomes narrowed, causing soft parts of the nasal cavity, mouth and throat to vibrate when breathing.
Parasomnia includes various sleep disorders. Parasomnia literally means wrong sleep. Examples include sleepwalking, sleep talking, bedwetting and grinding teeth. On the website of the Netherlands Sleep Institute, this sleep disorder is mentioned together with shift disorders. These involve a disturbance of the biorhythm, often with an external cause.
Restless leg syndrome is often associated with PLMD (periodic limb movement disorder). With PLMD, feet or legs move every 20 to 40 seconds while sleeping. The sleep disturbance in restless legs is caused by an uncomfortable feeling in the lower extremities, which makes the person in question irrepressible to move their legs.
Poor sleep can therefore have different backgrounds, of which restless leg syndrome is one of the five most common. The consequences of a sleep disorder can be major.
Everyone probably knows the feeling after a bad night’s sleep. Everything seems to be more difficult and you cannot stay focused that day. When you get older, you are even less able to cope with an all-nighter than before. However, chronic sleep deprivation as a result of a condition does not keep you feeling less for a day. It may have much greater consequences.
The Brain Foundation states that poor sleep has negative consequences for your health in the short and long term:
• Concentration and memory problems (short term)
• Negative influence on immune system (long term)
• Increased risk of, among other things, anxiety and depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and dementia (long term)
That is quite something. Restless leg syndrome is therefore something to be taken seriously. I wrote before that there is no treatment yet to cure troubled legs, but you can make an effort to reduce its symptoms. For example, you can influence the circumstances under which you sleep. What can you do to improve them?
My sleeping habits
Regarding my personal sleep hygiene, I like to stick to the adage of rest, cleanliness, regularity. Not everyone is the same, but I do believe that everyone can get useful things from this folk wisdom.
In any case, I really like peace and quiet in my environment, but the last few hours before I go to sleep I consciously wind down the day. If there is still daylight, I gradually darken my living room and bedroom. From that moment on I no longer do activities in which I strongly activate my brain. Reading a relaxing book is fine. For example, I do not choose a study book. I turn off the computer in time, as well as the telephone.
Regularity is also important to me. I go to bed around the same time every night and get up at a fixed time in the morning, no matter how my night went. Before going to sleep I have a kind of sleep ritual. By that I mean that I have a couple of specific things that I do. These include a number of stretching and relaxation exercises. That way I put myself in the right mood for going to bed. The predictability of these things is good for me to fall asleep well when I eventually lie down.
Talking about cleanliness, I think first of all about sufficient fresh air in the room in which I sleep. I actually always have my window open a bit and when it is really cold, it is at least in the ventilation position. Clean bedding and sleeping clothes also help with a more optimal sleeping experience.
When putting together tips for sleeping better, it is especially important to mention what you should not do. Much has to do with preventing too many impulses shortly before bedtime. Maybe you are still using electronic devices such as a smartphone while in bed. The blue radiation from a smartphone (or other electronic screens) disrupts your sleep cycle.
Also, don’t overdo it during the last hours of your day and avoid activating your brain even more at that time of day. Mental activity may make you restless and cause you to worry. Falling asleep then of course becomes quite complicated. You can read a book, but choose a genre that relaxes you. The same goes for watching a movie or a series. Reading work-related emails before going to sleep is not such a good idea for a similar reason.
Thuisarts (home doctor) includes the following sleep tips:
1. Get plenty of exercise, preferably during the day and not just before going to sleep.
2. Do not eat solid food 2-3 hours before going to sleep.
3. Avoid drinking beverages with caffeine (coffee, black tea) in the evening.
4. Do not smoke at night.
5. Do not drink alcohol to sleep.
6. Stop watching TV, tablet, computer or smartphone an hour before going to sleep.
7. Spend the last hour of your day relaxing, such as taking a short walk, a warm bath, doing relaxation exercises, or listening to music.
8. Provide a dark, well-ventilated bedroom.
9. Only use the bedroom for sleeping, for example not for work or watching TV.
10. Try to get into a regular sleep rhythm. Get up around the same time every day and go to bed at a fixed time in the evening.
What helps you to sleep better?