One of the reasons my labwork is suffering right now is because I haven’t gotten enough sleep.  Why haven’t I gotten enough sleep?  Restless legs.

Restless legs syndrome is a little hard to describe well.  It’s really hard to say what the actual feeling in your legs is, exactly.  The best I can do is to say that it reminds me of what your legs feel like if you have been trapped in a car for many hours.  They don’t so much ache or itch or anything, they just feel…uncomfortable.  And the thing that makes them comfortable is moving them around.  Constantly.

Generally speaking this feeling is muted when I’m doing something else–anything else.  Even just sitting and reading.  It’s like it distracts that part of my mind that makes my legs want to move.   However, when I am sleeping, or trying to get to sleep, my mind isn’t distracted anymore and the restlessness begins.  It’s not so bad  when I first lay down, so if I’m really tired, I can fall asleep quickly and it’s not a problem.  The problem is, it wakes me up and then I can’t get back to sleep.  The other night, I actually resorted to jumping jacks (at 2:30AM) to get my legs to feel better and then read for awhile, and then was able to go back to sleep.  But, it wasn’t very restful sleep.

Before you ask, I’ve tried sleeping aids–they haven’t worked.

It’s getting to the point that my legs feel tired and achy during the day, probably from all the moving around they’re doing during the night (on the plus side, maybe I’ll lose a few pounds with all the calories I’m burning moving my legs around all night).  An even bigger problem is that I’m having difficulty functioning during the day.  I’m kind of wandering around in a daze.  I walked right past the stairs when I was trying to go to lunch earlier, and I left my backpack at the cafe.  And, I have this little headache over my right eye.

And I’m supposed to get some labwork done.

This has to be one of the worst medication side effects that I’ve endured.  Well, okay, that extreme anxiety and panic attack was not much fun, I’ve got to admit.  But, I could deal with the overwhelming fatigue.  I could handle the nausea, the dizziness, the shaking hands, the dry mouth.    This is different.  This has taken the one thing I could do when I felt like crap, the one activity that I knew I would feel better after–sleep–and made it torturous (okay, maybe torturous is a slight exaggeration, perhaps unpleasant is a better description).  Whenever I’m upset, if I’m having a bad day, or the depression is just too bad, or I’m having panic attacks, or I’m angry about something, I go home and go to bed.  If it’s during the day, I just take a nap.  There are some nights that I really, honestly feel the best thing for me to do is quit grad school because I’m so miserable and I think there’s no way I can go to lab the next day, and I go to bed and when I wake up, it doesn’t seem all that bad anymore.  My bed is the one place I always feel comfortable, always feel like I can cope.  Now, if I go lay in the bed, I have to get up pretty quickly because my legs start driving me nuts.  On the one hand, its helping me get out of bed in the morning, on the other hand, there’s absolutely no place I can go that I feel at peace.

My doctor and I are working on it.  We’re switching the medication around, trying to see if we can get the restless legs to go away.  If that doesn’t work, there’s medication for restless leg syndrome that I can take.  I mean, what’s another pill?  But, I’m really starting to lose my patience and I don’t know how much longer I can go without real, good, 8 hours of sleep


Re:  Wellbutrin and alcohol.  Thanks for the input.  When I was at lower doses of that and my other medication, I had a glass of wine in the evening and my psychiatrist thought that was okay (well, actually, I think she didn’t like the idea of alcohol being in integral part of my life, I think because she was afraid I would abuse it).  But, when I started taking much higher doses of my medication, my doctor told me it was too risky for me to drink.  She may be slightly paranoid because she actually did have a patient have a seizure while taking Wellbuttrin, but I’m going to take her advice anyway.


7 thoughts on “Restlessness

  1. I’m sorry about the restless legs, that sounds absolutely miserable. I didn’t sleep much at all for my first two weeks on Wellbutrin, but it wasn’t so much restless legs as general restlessness, and thankfully, it eventually went away. I also had nasty panic attacks at the beginning… not pleasant. I guess it’s a testament to how miserable I was before taking it that I stayed on the stuff. Or maybe I was just really broke at the time, because every visit to my shrink to play with meds is money out of my pocket…

    On the alcohol stuff, I totally understand. The paranoia over seizures on Wellbutrin seems rather common… when they first released the stuff, recommended dosages were higher and seizures were a disturbingly common side effect. It’s been a much less frequent problem since they capped the recommended dose much lower, but the associations with seizures persist. I was terrified for awhile because my aunt had a seizure on the stuff.. but then I found out that she had been on a much higher dose and was probably taking it before they were so careful about prohibiting alcohol. But still, I’m not a doctor, and erring on the side of caution isn’t a bad idea here.

  2. I have RLS problems a lot, too.

    When it gets really bad, what works for me is to put some Bengay on my calves. For some reason that tingling distracts the restlessness and I end up falling asleep peacefully. Might be worth a try.

  3. Have you tried yoga? I’ve known people to ease off their medication completely by developing a regular practice. I also wonder what effect it would have on your RLS, since it’s an exercise in mind (and body) control, so to speak.

    Recently found your blog – as someone going through much of what you describe re: research, I find it very comforting!! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  4. All the stuff that you’re going through sucks. I’ve had various side effects from medication, but I think if it took sleep away I’d be furious. I hope that you and your doctor will be able to figure out something!

  5. ok i’m not sure if i have full out RLS, but some of the symptoms you mention describe what i get to a T. i don’t get these symptoms that often (eg. every night) – does it happen to you every night??

    when it does happen to me, the only thing that makes it better for me is to do stretching exercises, mainly the legs obviously. it’s my hamstrings and my calves that need the most stretching and once i’ve done that i feel 100% better. i try to hold the stretch for 15 seconds at least.

    i dunno if jumping jacks would be beneficial … cause it’s like you’re exercising your legs more and some people can’t sleep immediately after exercise, so it may add to the problem.

    i agree with Michael – yoga is great … i haven’t taken lessons myself but the hamstring/calves stretch that i do is from a yoga book. i hope you get some quality sleep soon, it is SO important.

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