Very commonly, peripheral neuropathy is associated with substantial sleep disturbance. In fact, sometimes this is what alerts the patient and the doctors that something is seriously wrong.
Perhaps you may have heard of RLS, or Restless Leg Syndrome. RLS is a condition that is very common, and just like peripheral neuropathy, is often associated with other disorders.
Most commonly, patients will feel the sensation of crampiness, or an urgent need to move their legs about. This occurs during or at the hour of sleep.
We do know that RLS can occur alongside peripheral neuropathy. Another place where RLS like symptoms occurs in the clinic, is in patients who suffer from a condition called spinal stenosis. Likewise, patients with degenerative disc disease may also have RLS-like symptoms.
We do know that just like neuropathy, patients that suffer from kidney disease, diabetes, may be predisposed towards developing RLS. Patients who consume caffeine, or take calcium-channel blockers may also suffer from RLS.
Neuropathic pain can alsointensify in the evening hours, both in reality and in perception (fewer distractions of the day can cause a sufferer to focus more on their pain the closer they get to bedtime).
Insomnia from neuropathy can perpetuate its own problem, too. Not only is neuropathic pain prodigious when it comes to nighttime restlessness, but the resulting lack of sleep can make the pain even worse! Rest is essential to recovery and treatment, and lack of sleep can lower your pain threshold drastically.
Just like in peripheral neuropathy, RLS is not always bound to the feet.
People can experience RLS-like symptoms in the upper thighs, or even the arms. Often, it is only movement, such as walking around, that stops the symptoms.
Although medication provides relief for some, it is important to pay attention to the factors that cause or worsen RLS and peripheral neuropathy.
And one of the largest things that aggravate both of these conditions is emotional stress and upset.
Here's the kicker, sleep disturbance is the major negative health impact of RLS. You may also be aware that sleep disturbance is one of the surest ways to aggravate almost any underlying health condition.
Limit your intake of caffeine and any medication that incorporates a stimulant (non-drowsy), especially in the evening hours.
Avoid heavy foods in the evening. Our bodies metabolize food for hours after we eat, giving us a boost of energy! Energy is great when we need it, but can be a pain when we do not. Many cultures eat their biggest meal of the day in the morning and only a small snack at dinnertime for this reason. Try it out!
Next time, I will talk about some more things you can do to ensure a more restful night's sleep that will help better manage your RLS, as well as peripheral neuropathy.