Restless legs syndrome
[Representative Image]Pixabay

You might have heard of sleep deprivation, which is a chronic illness, caused mainly by stress, depression and several other reasons. But, have you ever heard of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which leads to sleep deprivation?

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BBC shed light on the painful neurological disorder in a recent report, taking up the case of art historian Mary Rose, a patient who had been suffering from severe RLS for the past couple of years.

The symptoms

The symptoms of the disease were so painful that she struggled to stay asleep even if she was dead tired.

Given that, she described: "Imagine having a swarm of bees buzzing inside the skin of your legs, biting you.

"It makes you want to scratch your legs and get up and walk about - it was just impossible to lie down and sleep because one's legs were twitching in this uncontrollable way," she explained.

Talking to BBC, Mary could not recollect when the problem began. But she recalled how people used to give her different suggestion like taking quinine or sleeping with corks in the bed.

Nothing worked until she was referred to the sleep clinic at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals in London, where she's now being treated by neurologist Dr Guy Leschziner.

What is 'restless legs syndrome'?

As noted by Leschziner, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a "common neurological disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move, particularly at night, and is often linked with unpleasant sensations in the legs. It affects up to one in 20 adults and can cause severe sleep deprivation."

The disease is often conferred by or based on inheritance. But sometimes iron deficiency in body and pregnancy can cause the disease.

How can it be cured?

Most of the time, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, coupled with doing gentle exercise and taking some medication can help cure it easily. But cases like Mary Rose are rare, and this time medication was the only option.

She is completely cured now while she is still under treatment of Leschziner. Sometimes she gets attacks only if she forgets to keep up the dosage — a combination of drugs.

Besides the usual cure, there are several other ways to beat the insomnia caused from RLS, which are being followed by the art historian.

Even If she is taking the drug prescribed to her regularly, she is still not able to get a full night's sleep, which the doctor claimed this is pretty unusual.

The doctor explained: "What you describe is actually very common in people who've had their sleep disrupted for many years, in that sleep is a learnt habit.

"What you're doing essentially is you're distracting yourself," said Leschziner. "By thinking about the story or music you're listening to, you're no longer thinking about the process of going to sleep and therefore your brain switches into passive mode and then sleep happens upon you as if by accident."

Hence, the 80-year-old is also trying to distract herself through several tactics such as listening to music or audio books. She said: "By listening to my audio books or to music, my brain is beginning to stop running and so I do then feel ready for sleep."