New research has linked restless leg syndrome (RLS) with poor sleep, impaired daytime function, and excessive daytime fatigue in pregnant women. These are all common complaints during pregnancy.
In this study, findings indicated that 36% of women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy suffered from RLS, with more than 50% of them having moderate to severe symptoms. Pregnant women with RLS were compared to pregnant women without RLS. Researchers found that those with RLS were twice as likely to have impaired daytime functioning due to poor sleep quality. They were also more likely to have excessive daytime sleepiness. Scientists also found that there was a connection between the severity of RLS symptoms and disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle.
Lead author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center in Ann Arbor, Galit Levi Dunietz, noted that while he and his team already knew that restless leg syndrome was common in pregnant women, they did not realize how many suffered from severe symptoms. Women in the study were experiencing RLS at least four times a week.
Findings will be published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine on July 15.
In this study, researchers recruited 1563 pregnant women who were, on average, 30 years old. All of them were in their third trimester. The RLS diagnosis was made using the standard criteria of each woman’s self-reported symptoms and frequency. Medical records were reviewed, in which scientists extracted pregnancy and demographic data. They provided questionnaires to collect sleep data from the women as well. Analysis of this information showed no evidence of a link between RLS and newborn delivery outcomes.
Daytime sleepiness and poor sleep quality during pregnancy are often dismissed by primary providers because these sleep-wake cycle disturbances are such common symptoms during pregnancy. Many providers consider the symptoms to be a normal physiological change during pregnancy; however, this new research suggests that restless legs syndrome may be contributing to those symptoms related to poor sleep and excessive fatigue.
Researchers suggest that identifying and treating RLS at earlier stages of pregnancy using noninvasive and nonpharmacological approaches may help relieve many women of the burden that comes with these symptoms.