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Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

What is Sleep PLMD?

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, or PLMD, is a movement disorder that occurs during sleep and is characterized by periodic, repetitive mild to violent leg, foot, ankle, hip, or arm jerks. These movements usually occur as often as every 4 to 90 seconds in a consistent regular pattern. PLMD affects the quality of sleep because of frequent arousals due to the limb movements. Although some people are not aware of the movements or sleep arousals, the sleep cycle is continually interrupted. PLMD usually presents upon sleep onset and may subside by the early morning around 4:00 am. Some people that suffer from PLMD may also suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). RLS is characterized by an uncomfortable creeping, crawling, or tingling sensation in the legs or arms. These sensations usually accompany an urge or need to move the afflicted limb for relief. RLS generally presents in the evenings prior to bedtime.

Who gets PLMD?

PLMD occurs in men and women of all ages but the incidence increases with age. There is evidence that PLMD is hereditary.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of PLMD vary depending upon the severity of movements and occurrence. People that realize movements throughout the night describe limb jerking, difficulty falling to sleep, maintaining sleep, and poor sleep quality. Others that don’t notice the movements describe excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue. These sufferers may be told by their bed partners that they kick throughout the night.

How can I find out if I have PLMD?

Diagnosis of PLMD includes an evaluation by your Physician and a visit to the sleep lab for testing. The sleep study used to test for PLMD is the Polysomnogram (PSG). The PSG is a procedure that involves staying overnight in the sleep lab while having several different aspects of your sleep recorded and analyzed. An interview with your sleep partner might also be necessary to see if you frequently jerk or move throughout the night.

What is the cause and treatment?

PLMD has no known cause but can be related to the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney Failure
  • Increased caffeine intake

Treatment includes good sleep hygiene habits and medications prescribed by a Physician that suppresses movements and deepen sleep.

Where can I find more information about PLMD?

American Sleep Disorders Association

6301 Bandel Road #101
Rochester, MN 55901

National Sleep Foundation

729 Fifteenth Street NW
Fourth Floor
Washington, DC 20005