Got that creepy crawly feeling? Feel that you just can't sit though a movie in the theatre? Maybe you have restless leg syndrome.
"There are a lot of people who are just twitchy or nervous," says Dr. Jeffrey Lipsitz, director of the Sleep Disorders Centre of Metropolitan Toronto. "But some people actually have a condition that's called restless leg syndrome, where they feel, often when they are sitting or even lying down, that there's some creepy crawly sensation or ants crawling up the backs of their legs. Some people have described it as cold or a hot, a burning or searing sensation -- we've heard it all."
It makes you feel like you want to rub your legs or walk around, Lipsitz says, noting that when this happens every time you lay down to go to sleep, it obviously is not conducive to getting a good night's rest. This is why it has come to be viewed as a sleep disorder.
There are many people with restless leg syndrome who also have periodic limb movements or twitches.
"They not only have restlessness when they're awake but then when they do fall asleep, their legs (and sometimes arms) are sometimes twitching in a very subtle and involuntary way -- repeatedly during the night -- which obviously disturbs their sleep even more profoundly."
This can lead to significant daytime fatigue, making restless leg syndrome a sleep-wake disorder.
So how do you know if you have this condition if it doesn't manifest itself during the day but you're waking up tired?
Ask your partner if he notices you're doing a lot of twitching and movement while you're asleep. Also, it's important to find out if there's anything else -- such as snoring -- going on during the night that can be contributing to poor sleep. Then you can take this information to your doctor.
For the twitching that occurs during sleep, a muscle relaxant is one of the more successful treatments. It will either cause the muscles to stop twitching or let you sleep through it. This is fine as long as the medication is not so long acting that it causes grogginess the next day.
Daytime restlessness has been far more difficult to treat, Lipsitz says.
"One of the latest treatments is using drugs that were previously used for Parkinson's disease," he says. "They seem to be successful in a certain percentage of the population."
There are several new drugs -- also related to treating Parkinson's -- that have also showed some promise in treating restless leg syndrome.
Lipsitz notes that there is no known connection between Parkinson's disease and restless leg syndrome.