Although restless leg syndrome is considered a neurological disorder, it is also commonly referred to as a sleep disorder because it primarily affects the patient’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. It is estimated that people who suffer from severe symptoms associated with RLS only get about five hours of sleep per night, which is the least amount of sleep compared to all other types of sleep disorders.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with an individual’s inability to relax as well as with many underlying mental illnesses including depression and anxiety disorders, therefore, many patients who suffer from the syndrome. restless legs receive treatment in the form of behavior therapy to manage or eliminate their symptoms. of RLS.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for restless leg syndrome
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is used to treat many types of sleep disorders, including insomnia and restless legs syndrome. There are many different approaches that can be used in CBT to treat the symptoms of sleep disturbances including stimulus control which has been effective in treating patients with insomnia as well as secondary insomnia such as caused by symptoms of RLS. Stimulus control is based on changing the patient’s behavior and thought patterns when it comes to going to bed and sleeping.
Certain sleeping guidelines are recommended to the patient, such as using the bed only for sleeping and setting specific times for going to bed each night as well as waking up in the morning regardless of the amount of sleep obtained. If the patient is unable to fall asleep within fifteen to twenty minutes after bedtime, they are advised to get up and go to another room or do some other form of exciting activity such as reading. Napping should also be avoided as it can significantly interfere with the ability to fall asleep at bedtime.
Other CBT methods for restless leg syndrome
Cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep disorders also involves changing negative thought patterns regarding sleep and replacing them with more positive thoughts. For example, the patient is taught to change negative thoughts such as “I will never fall asleep” with positive affirmations or images.
Picture therapy may also be beneficial for sleep disturbances and involves the patient being given mental tasks or images that may distract them from focusing on their inability to fall asleep, which has resulted in many patients falling asleep faster. While behavior therapy is beneficial for many people who suffer from restless legs syndrome, this type of treatment is most effective when combined with dietary and lifestyle changes as well as other forms of treatment prescribed by a doctor.