Of Course Restless Legs Syndrome Impacts Our Mental Health
Last updated: May 2023
May is Mental Health Month.
The words "mental health" carry a bit of a stigma.
It is possible for all of us to struggle with some degree of mental health problems from time to time in our everyday lives, even without having health issues.
But restless legs syndrome (RLS)? It plays games with our mind. Let’s think about it a bit.
The many possible impacts of RLS on our mental health
Living with RLS can impact our mental health in a variety of ways. Here are just a few.
The symptoms of RLS have impacts on quality of life
Symptoms manifest differently in all of us. Some may not move often as they sleep, but feel as though their insides are inhabited by Mexican jumping beans. Others move so much at night they lose the bed covers or kick their partner. Still others shy away from a sexual partner because they are embarrassed by the condition.
Lack of sleep influences our mood and relationships
When my restless legs syndrome was not controlled, I often could not get into REM sleep for very long periods of time. That’s not healthy. I also went days without any sleep. It’s no wonder that my third day of no sleep I was incredibly emotional. This not only impacted me, but impacted my family, friends, and co-workers. With RLS being a "silent" illness, many don’t understand.
The quest to find a treatment that works
This is a long journey for many; not only the initial journey, but due to medications that don’t work for us and augmentation, we may repeat that journey many times.
Dismissiveness and a lack of education from healthcare providers
Many medical providers only receive minimal training, if any at all, on sleep disorders. Harvard Medical School has reported that a survey of 4-year medical schools revealed an average of less than 2 hours of formal education in sleep disorders, even at Harvard.1
Sleep is one of the most critical components impacting our health. Healthcare professionals sometimes act as though our condition either doesn't exist, or they discount it as though we are exaggerating. It’s frustrating when we are looking to them to help us find answers.
Family and friends might not be supportive
Many of our family and friends may lack empathy and are not as supportive as we need them to be. This hurts. How can this condition not, even in a small way, impact our mental health?
How do we take care of our mental health with RLS?
Therapy is not needed by everyone, though it is never a bad idea to have professional support. Sometimes you need a healthcare provider who partners with you to find solutions. Sometimes you simply need a friend or family member who listens.
Whatever you need, be proactive and find it. You are your best advocate with your restless legs syndrome condition — and your mental health.
Don’t forget our community here. We have your back when you need to vent or question or need a push to talk to your healthcare provider more effectively. We’ve been there. We get it.
How has living with restless legs syndrome impacted your mental health? What do you do to cope with the mental health impacts of RLS? Share with us in the comments below.
Do you find that what you eat or drink impacts your RLS symptoms?