the feet of a mother and a daughter, both in pajamas that have DNA strand patterns on them

My Daughter Caught My RLS

When my daughter’s pediatrician recommended a sleep study, it was to rule out sleep apnea. She was sleeping with her mouth open, snoring, and having daytime drowsiness and some behaviors that could be associated with not getting enough good quality sleep.

A sleep study in a hotel

The sleep study was conducted at a Marriott hotel near the waterfront location of the hospital associated with the sleep clinic. It was almost like a vacation to take my daughter downtown before bed, walk through the swanky lobby, and make our way up to the correct floor.

However, once we got into our room, I knew this would be anything but a vacation. They had my daughter get into her PJs and proceeded to connect wired sensors all over her body and head. To keep them in place, they put a mesh hair net thing over her and she looked like a very displeased onion. I was very worried that I was in for a long night with a sleepless child.

Observed while we slept

They pointed out the cameras in the bedroom and told me they’d be able to hear and see us all night. They would speak to me if I needed to reset my sleeping daughter or if she was disconnecting herself.

I eyed the cameras nervously, not loving the idea of someone watching me sleep, even though I wasn’t the subject of this study.

My legs were restless all night

Somehow, magically, my daughter fell asleep without too much delay, despite the wires and surveillance. I was, predictably, restless all night.

The combination of anxiety about being watched and listened to, the heightened awareness of knowing I may need to parent in the night, sleeping in an unknown bed, and my good ole restless legs kept me from ever really feeling like I got into a deep sleep.

My daughter inherited my sleep disorder

My daughter did great and they got the data they needed. We eagerly awaited the results. They came in: minor sleep apnea, not a major concern. No other health concerns. Restless legs. What? Restless legs?!

Turns out my daughter doesn’t have the sleep disorder we were worried about. She has mine. She inherited my chin, my resting concerned face, and my restless legs. I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty.

Helping our children cope

We can’t help what we give our children in terms of genetics. We can, however, learn from our own experiences and help them cope. Like me, my daughter needs a weighted blanket to get good sleep.

She benefits from yoga and exercise. She prefers fuzzy, tight leggings to jeans. I’m trying to get her to stretch and we did blood work and saw she had some vitamin deficiencies that could exacerbate restless legs, namely vitamin D and iron.

Hoping her journey is easier

I’m hoping that, because we found this out early, she can learn coping mechanisms that become part of her normal sleep routine and won’t be as impacted as those of us who didn’t know about our restless legs until adulthood.

Either way, when she comes to me at night telling me she can’t sleep because she feels “antsies in my pantsies,” I will have empathy and compassion for her.

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