a woman napping in a chair in her living room next to her TV tray of eaten dinner

You Are What You Sleep

Last updated: March 2022

Prior to writing this post I was 400+ words into writing a piece about diet affecting restless legs syndrome (RLS). I started the process in the early evening, hoping to have it finished in enough time to watch some television with my husband.

You find me rewriting the post after having 12 hours of sleep! “How did this happen?” you ask. The answer to this revolves around a considerable amount of nodding! Do you find that you experience the "nodding" symptoms of RLS?

Micro-naps are an unpredictable symptom of RLS

The nodding symptoms of RLS are a lesser-known side effect of the condition. They are mainly triggered by sitting comfortably on the couch with something not enthralling being shown on the television, or even when something mind-blowing has caught your attention for the previous 45 minutes.

It can hit at any point. You can have extracted yourself from bed a whole 30 minutes prior to your first attack, or have just eaten a meal, relaxing for an evening of hardcore Netflix watching (these true-crime thrillers aren’t going to watch themselves!).

Nodding off can be triggered by many activities

I’m sure if you are "of a certain age" then you have experienced these symptoms yourself. Trying as hard as you might, you can feel your eyes closing. I am lucky enough to have an automatic warning system built in; I snore as soon as I fall asleep!

You could be watching a programme with 30-second gaps missing, losing the plot entirely whilst having micro naps every couple of minutes, even with drinking and eating all the things you are supposed to avoid for a good night’s sleep — such as coffee and chocolate — just to stay awake.

Last night I lost the battle well and truly after nodding off every minute during an entire hour-long programme, with my poor husband poking my arm across the couch and telling me to make tea or eat a bag of crisps just to make my body associate TV with being awake.

Is it age, worsening RLS symptoms, or both?

Over the last 20 years my husband has become accustomed to my nodding off. Saying that, over the last 5 years it has gotten progressively worse. Is that a worsening of my RLS, or my increasing age? (My dad has the same unenviable habit! That was why he had to stop driving!) Now he just pauses and records everything we watch regularly, just in case!

Progressing years and worsening symptoms are having a real impact on my life currently. I need to have my hair trimmed; I know, though, that if I attend any time after 2 PM then I will fall asleep in the chair. I know they teach stylists to manage pretty much every situation, but not an obese lady snoring, asleep in their chair.

Getting enough sleep, even if it's microsleep

RLS takes my sleep most nights, until the exhaustion overwhelms me. I then turn into a toddler again, falling asleep wherever I sit. Even in the car! Managing a trip of over 2 hours will undoubtedly involve a nap somewhere along the route. Good thing my husband and the satellite navigation system get along so well! She speaks to him more than I do!

Do you have a "nodding" problem? Staying awake can be such a hard job when the exhaustion finally hits.

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