01/26/2012 03:05 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2012

5 Tips For Battling Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic limb movement disorder is a common sleep disorder. We spoke to Kenneth C. Anderson, M. D., a specialist in pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine, and a physician at the Sleep Disorders Center, at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have periodic limb movement disorder, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Tracie Handley

"Periodic limb movement disorder is a rhythmic movement that occurs while you're asleep," says Dr. Anderson. "You have characteristic jerking movements, rhythmically, that can cause arousals... when you wake up in the morning, your sleep hasn't refreshed you, therefore you're sleepy as you wake up and you're sleepy throughout the day.

Pay Attention To Daytime Sleepiness

"People need to be aware of being sleepy during the day, or waking up sleepy," says Dr. Anderson. "If you are experiencing this, also be aware of your bed sheets, whether they're pulled off and a mess in the morning. This will help you determine if you might be experiencing periodic limb movements during the night."

Determine The Level Of The Disorder

"If you wake up and your bed sheets are torn up a lot but you wake up refreshed and aren't bothered," he says, "then the symptoms may be on the milder end. You may not want to do anything about it."

Be Aware Of Your Bed Partner

According to Dr. Anderson, "A lot of times... the bed partner is bothered more. They get kicked, there's movement or things of that nature, which interrupt the bed partner's sleep. That's when they want something done because they can't get their sleep, and I don't think telling them to sleep in another room is a good alternative. If the patient is willing, then we treat the patient to help the bed partner."

Seek Evaluation Of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

"If the patient is having daytime symptoms of excessive sleepiness, that issue needs to be addressed." While the FDA has approved the use of certain medications for restless limb movement, studies have not been completed on their use for periodic limb movement disorder. However, Dr. Anderson says, "The clinical evidence is there, and they help with periodic limb movements, so a patient should talk with their physician about specific drugs."

Utilize Good Sleep Hygiene

"This is typical for most sleep issues," says Dr. Anderson. "Take measures to ensure the quality of your sleep, like using your bedroom only for sleep. Avoid caffeine, because there have been some reports that it can aggravate limb movements, but that's a good idea with sleep issues, in general. Good sleep hygiene and avoiding caffeine."

Kenneth C. Anderson, M.D, is a specialist in pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine, and is a physician at the Sleep Disorders Center, at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as with Louisville Pulmonary Care, LLC. Dr. Anderson is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where he completed his residency and fellowship. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, sleep medicine and hospice and palliative medicine, and is a certified NIOSH B reader.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?