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Q&A: Why Am I Kicking In My Sleep?

Q. Why am I kicking my partner while I sleep?

A. No, you're not experiencing some kind of subconscious animosity that plays out while you slumber. You may have restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition that gives you a physiological urge to move, jerk, or kick your legs in response to sensations in your legs. Pregnancy doesn't cause RLS, but the hormonal changes that occur while you're expecting can worsen it. RLS is sometimes a symptom of iron deficiency anemia or diabetes. It can be exacerbated by stress.

Some people are aware that they have RLS because they feel a compelling need to move their legs, particularly late in the day and while they lie still in bed. They describe having a creeping or crawling feeling in their legs that can be relieved only by moving their legs. (Sometimes the feeling is a tingling, cramping, burning, or painful sensation.) Others notice no such sensation, and the only way they know about their nighttime kicking is from the reports their sleeping partners give them.

If you have RLS, you may feel unexpectedly tired during the day; all that kicking and jerking can prevent you from sleeping soundly.

There isn't much that can be done for RLS during pregnancy because the drugs used to treat it -- anticonvulsants, tranquilizers, opioids, and Parkinson's disease medications -- are not recommended for pregnant women. Reducing stress, meditating, or walking before bedtime may help. Ask your doctor about safe alternative medications such as vitamin E. The good news is that your kicking will probably stop after you have your baby.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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