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Alaska Sleep Education Center

Six Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) Treatment Options

Posted by Jack Johnson on Jun 20, 2013 7:04:00 AM

PLMD Restless LegApproximately 4 percent of American adults suffer from periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). The sleep disorder is characterized by the patient’s limbs (usually, one or both legs) involuntarily and rhythmically moving several times during the night. These movements differ from the normal spasms people experience as they begin to fall asleep. Side effects of PLMD include fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), as well as the interrupted slumber of the sleep partner who becomes an unintentional target of “kicky” legs, so treating this sleep disorder can improve one’s quality of life and relationship harmony.No cure exists for PLMD, but with treatment, the symptoms and side effects can be lessened. Here are six options for treating periodic limb movement disorder:
  1. Reducing/eliminating caffeine: Caffeine sometimes will intensify the effects periodic limb movement disorder, so simply ingesting less coffee, soda, chocolate, and so on, might help. And don’t even think about drinking a Jolt before bed.
  2. Undergo a sleep study: Some PLMD patients also suffer from other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Treating the other sleep disorder may also help lessen the symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder. A sleep study is the best way to determine what’s going on while you sleep—especially because many people with PLMD, RLS, and sleep apnea are not even aware that they have these conditions.
  3. Clonazepam: Also known by its brand name of Klonopin, clonazepam is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines that suppress muscle contractions. Benzodiazepines also act as sedatives, which helps the PLMD patient rest better despite the sudden leg movements during the night. Clonazepam is used more than any other drug to treat the symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder.
  4. Anti-Parkinson drugs: Medications that help lessen the effects of Parkinson’s disease can also help some PLMD patients. These drugs increase the levels of dopamine, which is a brain chemical that regulates muscle movements. Two of these medications often used for PLMD sufferers are Sinemet and Permax.
  5. Anticonvulsant medications: Drugs used to control severe muscle spasms have also been used to treat periodic limb movement disorder. Gabapentin (also known by its brand name of Neurontin) is the most commonly prescribed anticonvulsant for PLMD.
  6. Muscle relaxants: Medications such as baclofen (brand name Lioresal) that inhibit the brain chemicals that stimulate muscle contractions have been shown to lessen the effects of PLMD.

If you or your sleep partner suspects periodic limb movement disorder, your first best step is to contact a sleep specialist. Alaska Sleep Clinic can help you get a better night’s rest.What symptoms make you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from PLMD

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Topics: sleep disorders, sleep study, plmd, sleep specialist

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