Ekbom's syndrome; Nocturnal leg cramps; Periodic limb movement disorder
Restless legs syndrome rarely results in any serious consequences. However, in some cases severe and persistent symptoms can cause considerable mental distress, chronic insomnia, and daytime sleepiness. In addition, since restless legs syndrome (RLS) is worse when resting, people with severe RLS may avoid daily activities that involve long periods of sitting, such as going to movies or traveling long distances.
Sleep deprivation, and the daytime sleepiness that follows, is increasingly recognized as a cause of mood disruption and a contributor to industrial errors and motor vehicle crashes.
Effect on Daily Performance and Activities. Studies suggest that sleeplessness worsens many waking behaviors. These include:
Studies reported that people with restless legs syndrome were more apt to be socially isolated, to have frequent daytime headaches or depression, and to complain of reduced libido or problems related to sleepiness.
RLS can contribute to insomnia. Insomnia itself can increase the activity of hormones and pathways in the brain that produce emotional problems. Even modest alterations in waking and sleeping patterns can have significant effects on a person's mood. Persistent insomnia may even predict the future development of mood disorders in some cases.
It is not clear if RLS is responsible for negative mood states or if anxiety or depression contributes to RLS. Anxiety can cause agitation and leg restlessness that resemble RLS, and depression and RLS symptoms also overlap. In addition, certain types of antidepressant drugs -- such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- can increase periodic limb movements during sleep.
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