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Sun, Dec. 08

Leg movement disorders differ when asleep or awake

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My husband moves his legs frequently while asleep. I end up getting kicked from time to time and it is affecting my sleep. He is completely unaware of this. Could this be restless leg syndrome? Is there anything we can do about this?

A: No, what you are describing is not restless leg syndrome (RLS). People with RLS are awake and move their legs in response to discomfort. This sounds like a disorder called periodic limb movement disorder. This occurs while asleep, and frequently the subject is totally unaware of it. There are blood tests that can be done that if abnormal and corrected, can eliminate the problem. Interestingly, many of the medications used to treat RLS work in this disorder as well.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I am pre-diabetic and my gynecologist wants me to get a sleep test. He says it is important. Why?

A: The incidence of sleep apnea in women with PCOS is way above average. We believe this to be due to a combination of obesity and low female hormone levels. More importantly, the incidence of diabetes in woman with PCOS is much higher when sleep apnea is present. Recent studies have shown that treating the sleep apnea improves the diabetes. In your case it might prevent you from going on to be diabetic.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Whenever I am stressed during the day, I tend to wake up in the middle of the night. I find it impossible to get back to sleep. Is this common and why does it happen?

A: Yes, it is common. It is referred to as acute situational insomnia. There are many theories to explain it, however, it most likely reflects elevated levels of stress hormones. When we have had a stressful day these hormones increase in our bloodstreams. Unfortunately, when trying to sleep they may not return to normal levels. In fact, this may be the same mechanism that operates in chronic insomnia. If we can learn methods to cope with stress during the day, the insomnia usually improves.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I have fibromyalgia. I suffer from "fibro fog." I have trouble with learning and memory. I have heard this may have to do with my sleep. If so, is there anything out there that might help me?

A: "Fibro fog" is a term used by people with fibromyalgia to describe their problems with learning and memory. Recent studies have shown that this may be due to abnormalities in sleep. It appears that these functions are very much dependent on certain stages of sleep. Patients with fibromyalgia have disturbances in stages of sleep such as deep (delta) sleep and certain phases of lighter sleep required for memory consolidation. Some of the newer medications for fibromyalgia can enhance these stages of sleep and have the potential to improve "fibro fog."

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer readers' questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him at or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, 3259 N. Windsong Dr., Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.

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