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Sleep Movement Disorders – What It is and How to Get Better Sleep

woman in bed with sleeping husband

Getting a good night’s rest is the goal for all of us when we finally decide to put our heads on the pillow.  Whether we can achieve it, however, often isn’t up to us. Be it the stresses on our mind or other reasons, having issues with our sleep has become all too common. In fact, it is reported that 1 in 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep.  

Among that number, however, are those who suffer from sleep movement disorders. Sufferers have a particularly challenging set of circumstances. But what is exactly a sleep movement disorder, and what can we do if we have one?

Read on to find out the answer to those questions and more.

Is It Normal to Move Around in Your Sleep?

In a word, yes. 

Sleep is made up of 2 main parts, non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

NREM sleep is split into 3 sections, N1, N2, and N3, and in each of these stages, we are likely to toss and turn as we move from one stage to the next. In fact, the average person moves around 13 times per hour, although this varies from person to person. 

The only time that we are known not to move is when we enter the REM stage as our body temporary paralysis. Known as the dreaming stage of sleep, this is likely to prevent us from acting out on the weird and wonderful things that we imagine ourselves doing in the land of nod. 

The issue lies when involuntary movements in our body prevent us from either falling asleep or majorly affect our sleep quality. 

What Is a Sleep Movement Disorder?

Sleep movement disorder is any condition that involves movement that disrupts sleep. While it is common for them to happen at the onset of sleep, they can happen at any time during the night, during both light and deep sleep cycles.

Living with one can be challenging and difficult due to not getting enough good quality sleep to affect nearly all aspects of life.

We will later provide you with some things that can be applied to those who suffer from these conditions or improve their sleep quality. Before we do, let’s learn some more about the most common sleep disorders that many have to deal with today.     

What Are the 5 Types of Sleep Movement Disorders?

Sleep Disorder Confirm StampWhile there are many variants of different sleeping disorders, there are 5 main ones that are the most common. They are:

  1. restless leg syndrome
  2. periodic limb movement
  3. sleep leg cramps
  4. sleep rhythmic movement
  5. bruxism

Restless Leg Syndrome 

About 10% of adults in America regularly have to deal with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Those with this condition feel discomfort and an uncontrollable urge to move their legs when they lie down. Often sufferers struggle to explain how they feel. However, some have described a throbbing and pulsing sensation, whereas others speak of burning and itching feelings. 

It is believed that RLS happens due to dopamine levels being low, as dopamine controls the smooth moments our bodies make. 

It is common for people with RLS to get used to the condition therefore not seek treatment; however, in doing so, they run the risk of their symptoms getting more severe and frequent. 

It has been proven to be genetic, and stress can often be a trigger for many.

Sitting for long periods of time a challenge for many. Getting less than 5 hours of sleep is common for severe RLS sufferers, and the sleep quality of those with more mild cases to be poor at best. For this reason, there is a link between people with RLS suffering from anxiety disorders and depression.  

Periodic Limb Movement 

RLS and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder in Sleep (PLMS) are often linked. However, they are not the same. PLMD involves repetitive movements of the legs manifested in constant cramping and jerking.

These movements tend to happen every 20-40 seconds and involve kicking and flexing the knees, ankles, and feet. 

One curiosity of PLMS is the fact that many only come to learn they have it when told by others as the jerks and movements are not normally enough to wake them. These constant movements move them out of deep sleep and into a lighter stage of sleep leading to poorer sleep quality. The main symptom that will move people to consult their doctors is constant daytime sleepiness.  

It can affect any age, and while it can be a secondary condition due to underlying health problems, when it is a primary health issue, there is still no clear idea as to what causes it to happen. The health conditions where PLMS can become a secondary condition include diabetes, anemia, iron deficiency, and issues with one’s spinal cord.

Sleep Leg Cramps

Sleep elderly man leg crampsPeople who suffer from Sleep Leg Cramps mainly experience it in their calves and feet and experience it at the beginning of their night’s sleep or throughout the night. The sensation can come out of the blue and be very painful, or it can happen slowly in a more manageable fashion.  

Although anyone can experience leg cramps, getting cramps while sleeping seems more common among older adults. 

Again we find that Sleep Leg Cramps and RLS are often confused as both involve discomfort in the legs; however, there are clear differences. While RLS involves needing to move your legs, there isn’t usually serious pain and muscle tightness involved. Also, if you experience leg cramps often, the best means of easing your discomfort is either stretching or massaging the area, which is not the case for RLS. 

Sleep Rhythmic Movement

Most common in young ones, Sleep Rhythmic Movement, is the repetitive movement of the body. It can be accompanied by loud noises such as humming, which can be startling for parents. However, the good thing is that it is never usually dangerous or causes lasting harm to the sufferer. 

Sleep rhythmic movements can be broken down into 3 different types:

  1. Head Banging – Often, the person is face down and repeatedly knocks their face into the pillow or a mattress.
  2. Body Rocking – This is when someone repeatedly moves back and forth, often resting on their hands or their knees   
  3. Head Rolling – This involves moving their head and neck back and forth on a pillow

People may manifest more than one of these actions.

As it is widespread, most young ones tend to grow out of condition. In fact, it’s frequency drops from 59% in babies of 9 months old down to 33% when children reach 18 months. That being said, some adults do continue to display symptoms later in life.

The reasons it can happen vary greatly; therefore, it is best if you are a parent to be vigilant and visit a healthcare professional if you note anything else of concern in your child’s behavior.  


Lady grinding teeth while sleeping

Bruxism is an anomaly in the sleep disorder world as the first person who may raise the alarm, and you should make your main port of call is the dentist!

This is because those who suffer from bruxism will grind their teeth while they sleep. Contracting your jaw while you sleep is common among all; however, those who have bruxism contract too strongly and wear their teeth down, causing serious damage. 

Some of the signs of bruxism other than worn teeth are loose and sensitive teeth, regular headaches, tongue indentations, and patches on the inside of your mouth.

The reasons for bruxism vary and are not conclusive; however, high among the believed causes are stress and anxiety. There are also links to sleep apnea, which involves the periodic blocking of one’s airways while sleeping.       

How Can You Get Better Sleep?

Now we have a clear idea about what sleep movement disorders are, is there anything that can be done about them?

Firstly we would encourage all who find that their symptoms affect them daily to seek professional medical attention. However, there are some practical things that we can all try to implement that aid in improving the quality of our sleep. 

We are creatures of habit, so having a set routine can significantly affect our sleep quality. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and you will find that in a short amount of time, your body will be telling you that you are past your bedtime.

A vast number of sleep conditions are known to be linked to stress, so limiting stress as much as you can aid you. Set in place habits to destress, such as having a relaxing bath or shower up to 30 mins before you hit the hay. 

Lastly, attention should be given to your room and, most importantly, your bed. The quality of your mattress does have a strong link towards sleep quality; therefore, making sure you have the best tool for the job is a must. Find out what the best option is for you today by using our mattress matcher!

Sleep Movement Disorders: You’re Not Alone 

Having any condition that infringes on our sanctuary of sleep is a serious one. Finding out all you can about the condition by consulting with your general practitioner and trying your best to ensure that you go to bed in the most relaxed fashion are all necessary.   

When it comes to ensuring that you have the best environment, though, The Beloit Mattress Company has you covered. Make sure to check out the best made in the USA handcrafted mattresses in our online store!  


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