Pregnant women often complain about having
difficulty sleeping at night and being exhausted during the day. For the most
part, the complaints are attributed to pregnancy itself. It's expected you'll have a hard time sleeping and be tired because of hormones, a
changing body, an increasing need to pee at night and so many other pregnancy
symptoms. However, a new study suggests that pregnant women with restless legs
syndrome (RLS) are two times more likely to report poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness, as well as lack of ability to function during the day, than those without RLS.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological sensory
disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs often described as “prickly,”
“pins and needles” or “creepy-crawly.” These sensations are accompanied by an
intense urge to move the legs. Since the severity of symptoms increases at night
when a person is trying to sleep, it's also considered a sleep disorder.
RLS can appear or worsen during pregnancy, which could
explain why researchers were not surprised that 36 percent of the women they studied
had RLS, but what they did find surprising was that half of the women
had severe symptoms.
“While we expected that RLS
would be relatively common in pregnant women, we were surprised to observe just
how many had a severe form,” said lead author Galit Levi Dunietz, PhD, a
post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders
Center in Ann Arbor. “These women experienced RLS symptoms at least four times
study included 1,563 pregnant women, with an average age of 30 years old, who were in their third trimester. Standardized criteria of self-reported symptoms and frequency were used to diagnose
RLS and medical records were used for demographic and pregnancy data. Questionnaires
were used to collect self-reported sleep information.
Although there's no cure for RLS, the findings of this study are important because pregnant
women’s lack of sleep and subsequent exhaustion complaints are often dismissed by
health care providers as just a normal part of being pregnant.
“These sleep-wake disturbances are considered
common symptoms in pregnancy and are frequently attributed to physiological
changes that occur in normal pregnancy, but our data suggest that RLS is an
additional contributor to these symptoms,” said Dunietz.
What this all boils down to is that if women suffering with RLS during pregnancy are properly diagnosed, then non-pharmacological
treatments could be used to help these tired mamas-to-be get some much-needed sleep.
As for baby, you can rest easy knowing that the study found no
evidence for any association between RLS and delivery outcome.