Monday, September 20, 2010

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

I think it is high time this pregnancy side effect gets a post dedicated to its' intrusion of my sleep, and overall comfort. I feel it is very sad that the opera, "Carmen", is finally here at the Lyric, and I may forgo seeing it just because I am dreading the idea of having to sit still for a few hours in a small seat where I am forced to be conscientious of the people around me.
A few people have asked me to try and describe this ailment. It cannot be described. It is an anomaly in medicine and is named for exactly what it is, restless legs. They aren't crampy, or tingling, or numb, or painful, or itchy, or hot, or cold, or swollen. But, I am aware of them. It's a very deep, down to the bone kind of feeling, and the only way to be rid of it, is to simply move your legs. If you had growing pains, in your legs, bad enough to remember (as I did) that is the closest I can come to describing the sensation. I can feel that the RLS is with me at all times, but usually I am moving about throughout the day. When I sit to watch TV, peruse the internet, or read, the feeling creeps up, but relief comes easy - I just move my legs. But have you ever tried to fall asleep while moving at the same time? Not an easy task. I would say not a possible task, but I am pretty sure I almost fell asleep while swimming one 5am morning, but that is a special kind of exhaustion I have yet to match.

I remember researching possible remedies with the last pregnancy, and the only real cure is: delivery of the baby. Well, have nearly 7 weeks before that's going to happen. So, I am stuck. I did read that antihistamines and caffeine can make it worse. Now, that is a predicament. If I don't take my Zyrtec (an antihistamine) at night, I am extremely itchy all over. Which is worse? Perhaps I should skip a dose and find out. And as for the caffeine; I have already reduced my one latte or cup of coffee in the morning to half. I doubt that contributes to RLS at 1am. And I am probably ruining our mattress, because I have found that if I wrap my feet in a cold, wet wash cloth it helps a bit. (Which, in my late night, last ditch efforts to discover a cure, I found a few other pregnant women mentioned ice packs on their feet - so ha! I am not absolutely insane.)

I would like to add that I have had very minimal symptoms of RLS my entire life. I realized this in hindsight during my pregnancy with Brock. Since I can remember, my legs have always bothered me when I sit still for extended periods of time. I specifically remember being in kindergarten and being very bothered by the fact that all of my classmates seemed to be able to sit cross-legged, during assemblies, the entire time, without moving. I would try so hard not to move my legs, but eventually couldn't take it anymore. Still, to this day, I noticed that I reposition myself significantly more frequently than those around me. Also, when swimming, and in very hard training, the RLS did affect my sleep, but I attributed it to extreme muscle fatigue. Supposedly, lots of exercise worsens it. I mention this, because I think that having a baseline amount of RLS makes the pregnancy exacerbation all the more intense.

Last pregnancy, I did not mention this symptom too frequently, because my indigestion and heartburn were so out of control, that running to the bathroom to vomit probably masked the RLS a bit. But I am armed with Protonix this go 'round thus indigestion contributes only mildly to the insomnia. Also, I have learned how to arrange my 5 pillows so that I can nearly, comfortably sleep on my side, despite the 21 pound watermelon attached to my front (yes, I am optimistically attributing 100% of my weight gain to the baby belly). So this leaves lots of energy to be spent focusing on my crazy legs. I generally just take my Tylenol PM then toss, turn, huff, sigh, sit up, rearrange, and shake my legs from 10pm until I finally fall asleep, somewhere in the vicinity of 12-1am. Just in time to wake up at 2:30 to pee.

And what is Matt doing during these hours of my fitfullness? Sleeping. Snug as a bug in a rug.


bankmeister said...

That must be so frustrating. The wife and I both struggle with what I imagine to be similar to RLS, but for us, it doesn't go beyond the ankles. Hers has become significantly exacerbated during pregnancy, and now that I think about it, her mom has it, too. In fact, I think she did an overnight test, but I'm not sure I ever had the results.

Whatever goes on with my ankles is nothing close to growing pains, though. Those were some serious pain that prevented me from sleep or woke me up from it, and that is not what happens with either of us now.

We both wind up popping our ankles (by rotation) a lot, and I frequently get fidgety, like I have to bounce my knee up and down. Long flights, movies, church are all somewhat troubling, but I'm thankful that my sleep is not affected, and feel for you that yours is.

The Carnahan Family said...

ask your doctor...but we take Valerian Root from Whole Foods. It's natural so?!?!! Good luck! You'll forget all of this soon enough when your not sleeping for a different reason. :o)