leg kicks!

Have you ever noticed that your bed-partner has a regular twitch in his or her leg while asleep? Have you ever complained that the leg twitching “messes up the covers”—or worse yet—that you are being kicked during the night?

If so, your bed-partner most likely has a case of Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS). PLMS describes a regular—every 10 to 30 seconds—contraction of leg muscles that typically causes the big toe to extend forward, which at the same time can cause the knee to bend upward and the hip to move.

Because PLMS occur during sleep, your partner most likely is unaware of the movements. He or she may complain of difficulty falling asleep, or of staying asleep, or of being tired during the day—all attributable to the same cause. PLMS can awaken us just as we are falling asleep—in which case we complain of insomnia, or they can awaken us during the night—so we complain of insomnia and unrestful sleep. Or we may simply complain of being tired during the day—without knowing that we actually were subtly awakened often a hundred times or more during the night.

Medications can be prescribed to try to stop the PLMS, but the success rate is only moderate. Sleeping pills often are alternatively prescribed to allow patients to sleep through the disturbing movements. Some home remedies also have proven effective: Avoid caffeine, stretch the calves and legs in the morning and at night, exercise regularly, and hot showers or baths before sleep.

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