Partners lovingly holding hands, a question and answer conversation overlaps

RLS From a Partner Perspective

I’m 55 years old. I’ve had restless legs syndrome (RLS) my entire life. I’ve sort of come to terms with it now, and I have good medications these days.

Recently I wrote about how RLS affects my relationships, so I thought perhaps I should ask my husband how he feels about it. We’ve been married for 28 years, and for all of those years, Mick has had to deal with all my wriggling and jiggling.

When did you first notice the RLS?

M: I really don’t know. I feel like I’ve always known about it. I obviously noticed it when we first met – or not long after we met – but I had no idea what it was called. I just thought it was an annoying tic, but it has a huge impact on her life.

Do you still notice it?

M: If we’re sitting somewhere, sitting at a table or somewhere like that, and it’s enough to break my concentration for why we’re there, the continual leg jittering is annoying. At the cinema or a concert, when we’re just sitting there and her legs are bouncing away, I put my hand on her leg and apply pressure to make her stop.

How does it affect sleep?

M: I imagine a decent sleep would be very difficult for her. As she’s explained, if you don’t move your legs, it’s an itching, burning sort of painful thing that you have to move to relieve it. I think it would be very difficult, very uncomfortable.

It would prevent her from getting into a deep sleep. She just starts nodding off and gets woken up by it. She has periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) as well. Sometimes during the night, I’ll sit there and time it. I’ll count between jerks – it’s usually about 20 seconds. Or she’ll move during the night and cry or whimper in pain.

I have sleep apnea, but as long as I’m using my CPAP, I’m a good sleeper most of the time. When I’ve just gone to bed, her movement may prevent me from falling asleep. Sometimes during the night, if it’s bad, it’ll wake me up and I can’t get back to sleep. I’ll kick her and push her away because she often comes over to my side of the bed. I’ve kicked her out of bed before. I’ve told her, “You’re driving me nuts. Go and sleep in the other room.” I do notice when her meds are working and when they’re not.

Has it affected your relationship?

M: Not really. It’s just one of those things you take into account and accept because it happens. It’s nothing I can do anything about.

I don’t notice it in the car because I’m concentrating on driving. But she wriggles around and puts her feet up on the dashboard to try and get comfortable. She fidgets on an aeroplane. It’s just one of those things. One time we had a layover in Kuala Lumpur and she spent half an hour lying on the airport floor stretching before we got on the next flight. It’s just something she does. Stuff that happens all the time and you don’t take any notice of it.

I feel sorry for her. When she’s jiggling and shaking or doing something all the time, I’m just glad I don’t have to do it. Occasionally I’ve had the same sort of things with my legs and having to move. It’d just do my head in if it happened all the time. I remember it happening to me one time and I thought, “Geez. I hope it’s not contagious.” RLS is one of those things where when it happens to someone else all the time, you don’t notice. I just love her exactly how she is (she told me to say that).

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