Restless Leg Syndrome, Parkinsons and Dopamine!

If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, it might be your legs causing the troubles. University of Cincinnati Sleep Center experts say a syndrome that tends to run in families may be to blame and it often affects those who are pregnant or have diabetes.

If you toss and turn while lying in bed, you could have restless leg syndrome. “Restless leg syndrome is basically the sensation that you can’t get your legs comfortable and you have to keep moving your legs,” said Dr. James Knepler. “It usually happens when you are lying still and most frequently when you are entering bed trying to fall asleep.” The thought is that this may happen due to changes in the brain from something called dopamine. That is a similar problem in Parkinson’s disease, so researchers have now started using medications used in Parkinson’s to treat RLS. Parkinson’s is a disease that causes tremors and sporadic movement. Sleep medicine expert Dr. Knepler says that is sort of what’s happening in restless leg syndrome, which is why Parkinson’s medications such as Mirapex and Requip may work to reduce RLS symptoms. “It’s not that this is a precursor to Parkinson’s, (it’s) just that these medications work on the dopamine receptor in your brain, which for Parkinson’s works with the tremor and for this works with the restless legs.

A sleep study is the best way to find out if you have RLS. In addition to medications, symptoms can be reduced by getting proper treatment if you have low iron levels in your blood and by staying physically active throughout the day. Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol tend to aggravate this condition. A sleep study is usually covered by medical insurance if it is recommended by your primary care doctor.

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