While restless legs syndrome is considered a neurological disorder, it is also commonly referred to as a sleep disorder as it primarily affects the patient’s ability to receive a proper night’s sleep. It is estimated that individuals who suffer from severe symptoms associated with RLS only receive approximately five hours of sleep per night which is the least amount of sleep when compared to all other types of sleeping disorders.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with an individual’s inability to relax as well as many underlying mental illnesses including depression and anxiety disorders, therefore, many patients who suffer from restless leg syndrome receive treatment in the form of behavioral therapy in order to mange or eliminate their symptoms of RLS.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Restless Legs Syndrome
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is used to treat many types of sleeping disorders including insomnia and restless legs syndrome. There are many different approaches that can be used in CBT to treat the symptoms of sleep disorders including stimulus control which has been effective in treating patients with insomnia as well as secondary insomnia such as that caused by the symptoms of RLS. Stimulus control is based upon changing the patient’s behavior and thinking patterns when it comes to going to bed and sleeping.
Certain guidelines for sleeping are recommended to the patient such as only using the bed 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 that was obtained. If the patient is unable to fall asleep within fifteen to twenty minutes of going to bed, they are advised to get up and go into another room or do some other form of activity that is arousing such as reading. Napping should also be avoided as this can significantly interfere with ones ability to fall asleep at bedtime.
Other Methods of CBT for Restless Legs Syndrome
Cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep disorders also consists of changing negative thinking patterns in regards to sleeping and replacing them with more positive thoughts. For instance, the patient is taught to change their negative thoughts such as “I’ll never fall sleep” with positive affirmations or images.
Image therapy may also be beneficial for sleep disorders and consists of the patient given mental tasks or images that can distract them from focusing on their inability to fall asleep which has been beneficial in allowing many patients to fall asleep faster. While behavioral therapy is beneficial for many individuals who suffer from restless legs syndrome, this type of treatment is more effective when combined with dietary and lifestyle changes as well as other forms of treatment prescribed by a physician.