Treating Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome: A Dual Approach to Better Sleep

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Treating Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome - A Dual Approach to Better Sleep - My Concierge MD

Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS) are two sleep disorders that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.

Though seemingly distinct, these conditions are often interconnected, and treating them together can lead to better sleep and improved overall health.

This article will explore the connection between sleep apnea and RLS, discuss the available treatment options for both disorders and provide guidance on managing these conditions effectively.

Understanding Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, causing disrupted sleep and reduced oxygen levels in the blood. Common symptoms include 

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for air during sleep, and
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

On the other hand, restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, typically at rest or during sleep. Symptoms of RLS include

  • Uncomfortable sensations in the legs, such as tingling, itching, or burning, and
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Both sleep apnea, and RLS are common conditions affecting millions of people worldwide. Certain factors, such as obesity, family history, and age, can increase the risk of developing these disorders.

Preexisting conditions like tinnitus can also impact sleep apnea and your quality of life.

What Drugs Can Cause Restless Leg Syndrome?

Several medications and substances have been associated with developing or worsening restless leg syndrome (RLS) symptoms. Some of these drugs, including


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), can potentially exacerbate RLS symptoms due to their effects on neurotransmitter levels in the brain.


These medications, used to treat mental health disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can sometimes worsen RLS symptoms due to their impact on dopamine levels.


Over-the-counter antihistamines, particularly sedating ones like diphenhydramine, can aggravate RLS symptoms in some individuals.

Anti-nausea Medications

Some anti-nausea drugs, such as metoclopramide, can affect dopamine levels in the brain, potentially leading to RLS symptoms.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Often prescribed for high blood pressure and heart conditions, these medications have been reported to cause or worsen RLS symptoms in some cases.

Dopamine Agonists

Paradoxically, while these medications are often used to treat RLS, they can sometimes cause a worsening of symptoms or a phenomenon called “augmentation,” where RLS symptoms become more severe or occur earlier in the day.

Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome

Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome - My Concierge MDResearch studies have shown a link between sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, with some individuals experiencing both conditions concurrently.

This connection is likely due to common underlying factors, such as low oxygen levels and disrupted sleep patterns. Untreated sleep apnea and RLS can seriously affect sleep quality and overall health, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and mental health issues.

Is Restless Leg Syndrome And Snoring Connected?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) and snoring are not directly connected; they are separate conditions with different underlying causes. However, they may coexist in some individuals, mainly when snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. RLS and sleep apnea can disrupt sleep and lead to poor sleep quality.

Although there is no direct connection between RLS and snoring, individuals with sleep apnea may experience both snoring and RLS. In such cases, treating sleep apnea may improve snoring and RLS symptoms.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effectively treating sleep apnea and RLS. Sleep apnea is typically diagnosed through a sleep study, which monitors breathing, heart rate, and oxygen levels during sleep.

Restless leg syndrome is often diagnosed based on a patient’s description of their symptoms, medical history, and sometimes, additional tests to rule out other potential causes.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea


Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask over the nose and mouth during sleep, which delivers a constant stream of air to keep the airways open.

Does CPAP Help Restless Leg Syndrome?

While CPAP is not a direct treatment for restless leg syndrome (RLS), some studies have suggested that it may positively affect RLS symptoms in individuals with sleep apnea and RLS.

The potential improvement in RLS symptoms may be due to the overall improvement in sleep quality and oxygen levels that CPAP provides for individuals with sleep apnea. However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between CPAP therapy and RLS symptom improvement.


Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) therapy is another option, providing varying air pressure levels for inhaling and exhaling. Oral appliances can also treat mild to moderate sleep apnea by repositioning the jaw and tongue to maintain an open airway.

Additionally, lifestyle modifications, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on one’s side, can improve sleep apnea symptoms. In some cases, surgical interventions may be necessary.

Treatment Options for Restless Leg Syndrome

Several medications can alleviate RLS symptoms, including

  • Dopaminergic agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Opioids, and
  • Anticonvulsants.

Working with a healthcare professional to find the most suitable medication and dosage for each individual is essential.

Non-pharmacological treatments, such as leg massages, stretching, exercise, and relaxation techniques, can also help manage RLS symptoms. Improving sleep hygiene and addressing potential iron deficiencies may also relieve symptoms.

How To Stop Restless Legs Immediately?

While there is no guaranteed way to stop restless legs immediately, there are several strategies you can try to alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS) quickly.

These techniques may not work for everyone, and their effectiveness can vary from person to person. Here are some suggestions:

  • Movement: Getting up and walking around, or simply moving your legs, can temporarily relieve RLS symptoms.
  • Leg massage: Gently massaging your legs may help alleviate the uncomfortable sensations associated with RLS.
  • Warm or cold compresses: Applying a warm or cold pack to the affected area may help soothe RLS symptoms for some people.
  • Stretching: Stretching your leg muscles, particularly the calf and hamstring muscles, can sometimes relieve RLS discomfort.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practicing deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation may help reduce the overall tension in your body and alleviate RLS symptoms.
  • Distraction: Engaging in a calming activity, such as reading or listening to music, can help take your mind off the sensations in your legs.
  • Vibration or pressure: Some people find relief from RLS symptoms by using a vibrating pad or applying gentle pressure to their legs using compression socks or weighted blankets.

Combining Treatments for Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome

Developing a personalized treatment plan that addresses sleep apnea and RLS is crucial for optimal results. This may involve a combination of therapies, including CPAP or BiPAP, medications, and lifestyle modifications.

Regular monitoring and adjustments to treatment plans are necessary to ensure consistent improvement in sleep quality and overall well-being.

Working closely with your healthcare provider, you can establish a tailored approach that addresses sleep apnea and RLS’s specific needs and challenges.

Maintaining open communication with your medical team and reporting any changes in your symptoms or potential side effects from medications is essential. This will allow your healthcare provider to adjust your treatment plan, ensuring the best possible outcome.

Living with Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome

Managing sleep apnea and RLS requires committing to lifestyle changes and adhering to the prescribed treatments.

Tips for Managing Symptoms and Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Establishing healthy habits can significantly impact your overall quality of life. Some helpful tips include:

Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule

Going to bed and waking up simultaneously each day can help regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

Create a Sleep-friendly Environment

Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet to promote better sleep. Use blackout curtains, white noise machines, essential oils, and comfortable bedding to enhance your sleep environment.

Exercise Regularly

Moderate physical activity can improve sleep quality and help alleviate RLS symptoms. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days, but avoid intense workouts close to bedtime.

Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine

These substances can disrupt sleep and exacerbate RLS symptoms. Limit your consumption, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Incorporate stress-reducing activities, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation, into your daily routine to promote better sleep.

Role of Support Groups and Professional Guidance

In addition to making these lifestyle changes, connecting with others who share similar experiences can provide valuable support and encouragement. Consider joining a support group for individuals with sleep apnea or RLS, in-person or online.

Professional guidance from therapists, sleep specialists, and other healthcare providers can also be invaluable in helping you navigate the challenges associated with living with these conditions.


Addressing sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome is essential for better sleep and overall health. By working closely with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan and making the necessary lifestyle changes, you can effectively manage these conditions and enjoy a more restful night’s sleep.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea or RLS and living around LA, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from our professional team in My Concierge MDearly diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve your quality of life.

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