So imagine you are lying in bed trying to get to sleep when suddenly the muscles in your left leg begin to have a baby. Ok, so maybe they don’t have a baby because that’s not physically possible, but you remember what it felt like to have contractions when you did have a baby, and this feels a lot like that except not as painful. These contractions begin at the top of your thigh and roll down your entire leg to the bottom of your feet. Sometimes they begin in the tip of your tongue, roll across your chest and stomach and then down your thigh and your leg. If you put your hand on your leg, you can FEEL the muscles move. Sometimes the muscles are so tight that you can see the contraction move down your leg. Sometimes the contraction makes your foot curl without your permission. The entire “roll” takes about twelve seconds from start to finish. Then there’s a nice little break of about five seconds, and the cycle repeats. The reason you know this is because in desperation you started counting. You went to bed at 10:30, fell immediately to sleep because you are so sleep deprived from this occurring every night, and then you woke up at 11:30 having a leg baby. It is now 2:30, and you might as well get up and write a blog post because if you keep trying to sleep you are going to Punch Your Legs with your fists so hard you leave bruises. You know this because you have done it before.
This is the story of my night life. Yea, I know. It’s pretty exciting.
Periodic Limb Movement during Sleep (PLMS) is what you have, but yours happens not just when you are asleep but when you are awake as well. It happens when you sit and watch a movie or try to read a book. The later in the day or evening it is, the worse the contractions. Sometimes the contractions are painful, but most of the time they are annoying. Sometimes they are so annoying that in the dead of night you have some kind of psychosis where you think putting your 60 pound dog on top of your legs might help but all that happens is your legs go to sleep AND continue with the contractions, resulting in an every MORE annoying sensation of pins and needles and leg labor. Then your sleepy brain dreams up thoughts of piling heavy books on top…or squeezing the legs in a vise….or cutting them off with a chainsaw.
Ever had a muscle twitch in your eye? These aren’t like twitches. The contractions feel like they are bone-deep.
I had a break last week from the contractions when I was waiting for my replacement hormone patch prescription to be refilled. I had the best sleep I’d had…well, ever since I had a hysterectomy. Which makes me wonder if the muscle contractions are related to the patch. But I could be wrong. I used to think it was related to salt in my diet…so I drastically cut back on salt. No change. Then I thought it had to do with too much or too little exercise. So I walked in the morning….no change. So I walked in the evening….no change. It’s September in Texas and still 95 outside, so I didn’t walk in the middle of the day. So I get up in the middle of the night and climb the stairs to get my heart rate up. Tonight I tried jumping jacks. The exercise seems to help WHILE I’M MOVING but at some point I have to stop.
4am is the magic hour. Usually by then I can sleep.
But when the alarm is going off at 6, why bother? I’ll feel even more tired than I do now.
I think it’s time to visit a sleep doctor. The neurologist didn’t know what my leg movements were — just an undefined autoimmune disease affecting my nerves and my muscles. And maybe she was right — maybe I’m having a flare up because the numbness is back in my fingers, too. But even if I’m right that this is PLMW (periodic limb movement while awake), the only treatments out there are drugs that mess around with brain chemistry, have nasty side effects I will NOT tolerate (such as waking up suddenly vomiting), lose their effectiveness over time, and/or are habit-forming. So why bother going to the doctor when I won’t take the medicine?
Maybe I can learn to live on 2 hours of sleep at night. Just not go to bed until 4am. Keep moving. Vacuum. Sweep. Fold clothes. Rinse. Repeat. I can’t even pray in a coherent manner when my legs get like this because my brain fixates on the contractions. Don’t judge me. Yours would, too, if your legs were having a baby every night.
“I’m praying for peace in…there it goes, another contraction…where was I? Oh, yes, praying for my friend’s mom who has been diagnosed with….ugh. there’s another one….Lord, please show me how you want me to….I CAN’T STAND THIS CAN’T STAND THIS CAN’T STAND THIS. I’m getting up.”
Sweet dreams, friends. May your legs never have a baby. If they do, though, send me a text or message me because chances are, I’ll be up, too.
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