What You Need to Know About Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), formerly known as sleep myoclonus or nocturnal myoclonus, is a disruptive sleep disorder marked by repetitive limb movements during non-REM sleep. Frequency and severity of these symptoms can vary significantly, but can dramatically impact the quality of sleep health of those with the disorder, and their partners. 

While people with other sleep disorders, including 80% of patients with Restless Leg Syndrome, experience periodic limb movements, PLMD is diagnosed when other sleep disorders do not account for these movements. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have PLMD, the sleep professionals at Whitney Sleep Center have compiled important information you should know about it. Keep reading to learn more about Periodic Limb Movement Disorder.

Who Is At Risk For PLMD?

Having been researched less extensively than comparable sleep disorders, the exact prevalence of PLMD is unknown. While observed in people of all ages, including children, the prevalence has been observed to increase with age. Unlike RLS, which is more likely to impact women, PLMD is reported equally among genders. Uremia, diabetes, iron deficiency, and spinal cord conditions or injuries, as well as family history, are all suspected risk factors for PLMD. Recent studies indicate that dopamine deficiency can trigger the hyperexcitability of spinal flexor pathways, causing movements related to PLMD. 

What Are the Symptoms of PLMD?

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder sufferers experience rhythmic jerking and twitching of the feet or legs, and occasionally upper extremities as well. Some people with PLMD may experience hundreds of such movements each night. Typically, these movements repeat every 20 to 40 seconds during light non-REM sleep. Unlike Restless Legs Syndrome, people with PLMD don’t have strange sensations in their limbs or urges to move. While many patients are unaware of these movements while they occur, and may not remember waking during the night, people with PLMD consistently report poor sleep health and daytime exhaustion. Movements are often noticed by partners who share a bed with the person afflicted with the disorder. 

How Is PLMD Diagnosed and Treated?

Diagnosing Periodic Limb Movement Disorder requires an overnight sleep study conducted in a sleep clinic. While the patient sleeps, a sleep specialist utilizes polysomnography to observe brain and muscle activity, heart rate, breathing, and eye movements. PLMD is diagnosed when patients experience an excess of 15 periodic limb movements per hour (5 or more in children), the movements impact overall sleep health and wakefulness, and other sleep and psychiatric disorders have been ruled out. When a PLMD diagnosis is made, blood and urine tests are often administered to check for anemia, iron deficiency, kidney, and liver disorders which are linked to the disorder. 

While there is not a cure for PLMD, there are a number of effective treatments. Sleep specialists will recommend appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes, and may prescribe medications such as benzodiazepines, dopaminergic and gamma-aminobutyric acid agents, and anticonvulsants.

Contact Whitney Sleep Center 

If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from PLMD or another disruptive sleep disorder, Whitney Sleep Center can help. Our team of physicians, technicians, and specialists will conduct a safe, comprehensive sleep test to evaluate your sleep, devise an effective treatment plan, answer your questions, and address your concerns. Whitney Sleep Center is a family business where we treat patients with care and focus, prioritizing your sleep health so you can enjoy restful nights and better days. Reach out to us now to schedule a sleep study or to inquire about our treatments and services.