Is It Insomnia or Something Else?


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — World sleep day is March 19th. But a survey by Consumer Reports finds nearly 70 percent of Americans struggle with falling asleep at least once a week. There could be various reasons why people have a hard time sleeping. Ivanhoe has details on some sleep disorders and what you can do about them.

Looking to get some zzz’s, but having a hard time falling asleep? Before you chuck it up to insomnia, you may want to check to see if it might be something else.

“It’s very important to rule out other sleep disorders as some sleep disorders can mimic insomnia,” explained Lourdes DelRosso, MD, Sleep Physician with Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.

One of those is restless leg syndrome.

“You have this sensation in your legs that you really need to move your legs. It can prolong it for up to an hour,” continued Dr. DelRosso.

Even though there’s no cure for restless leg syndrome, avoiding caffeine, getting plenty of exercise and warm baths and massages can relax your leg muscles. Another thing that can mimic insomnia is a delay in your circadian clock.

“Usually, adolescents, teenagers, naturally start having a delayed sleep cycle,” Dr. DelRosso stated.

It can result in excessive daytime sleepiness. To lessen the effects of that, keep a consistent wake-up time that doesn’t vary more than two hours even on the weekends. Finally, if you are feeling tired during the day, it could be sleep apnea. Sleep apnea could put you at greater risk for a stroke and heart attack. It’s estimated that 85 to 90 percent of people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it. Inform your doctor if you experience snoring, daytime sleepiness or mood changes. This could help you get the right diagnosis to catch some quality zzz’s.

Having jet lag can also make you have difficulty falling asleep. A very low dose of one to three milligrams of melatonin taken two hours before bedtime can ease the symptoms of jet lag.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2835

BACKGROUND: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that causes an overpowering urge to move your legs. It can also be referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease. It’s a sleep disorder, and according to doctors, it usually happens or gets worse while you’re resting. You can experience trouble sleeping or sitting for a long time and may get worse if you don’t seek treatment. RLS affects up to 10% of people in the United States. Anyone can get it, but seems more common in women, and middle-aged people are more likely to have severe symptoms. If symptoms are mild or don’t happen often, it is sometimes hard for doctors to diagnose RLS. But once it’s diagnosed, treatment can often stop it.


CAUSE AND SYMPTOMS: In some cases, RLS has said to be a genetic syndrome, meaning that parents with RLS can pass it down to their children. Up to 92% of patients have a first-degree relative with the disorder. These patients tend to develop symptoms earlier in life, before age 45, than those with RLS without the genetic link. RLS can include a variety of symptoms. Leg or arm discomfort is one that is often described by adults as creeping, itching, pulling, crawling, tugging, throbbing, burning, or gnawing. These sensations usually occur at bedtime. To relieve limb discomfort, you may have an uncontrollable urge to move your limbs especially when resting, such as when sitting or lying down. Often, sleep is disrupted, so additional time is needed to fall asleep because of the urge to move your limbs to relieve the discomfort. You may need to get out of bed to stretch your limbs to relieve the discomfort. Finally, work performance may be hindered due to sleep disruption. Behaviors like irritability, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, and hyperactivity may be shown.


BREAKTHROUGH OPTION FOR RLS: A recent study published in the Journal of Physiology points to another underlying reason people suffer from RLS. It suggests the nerve cells that send signals to the muscles in the legs may be more “excitable” in RLS sufferers. Those hyperactive nerves then trigger leg muscles to twitch and throb. Researchers at the University of Gottingen, the University of Sydney, and Vanderbilt University agree this finding could lead to breakthroughs in treatment. New research may provide hope for treatment options to relieve the uncontrollable movements of limbs usually occurring in the legs. Researchers predict that developing drugs to calm down those overly stimulated nerve cells could promise relief from RLS. “The mechanisms for RLS are still not completely understood,” said Dirk Czesnik, one of the study’s authors. “We have shown that the nerve cells supplying muscles in the leg are responsible and hereby additional drug treatments may be ahead targeting these nerve cells.” The nerve-blocking drugs the researchers refer to may not be on the market for several years.


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Lourdes DelRosso                                                                  Barbara Clements                     

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