Last updated: Jul 15, 2008
Donna, 51, experienced her first symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS) as a teenager. Living in silence for years, she convinced herself that she was crazy: She didn’t understand why she always had to move her legs, why she couldn't sleep at night, and why it was so hard to explain the feeling to other people. At times—running up and down the stairs or riding her exercise bike at 3 a.m.—she was close to suicidal. (Watch Donna discuss RLS at night.)

Donna was diagnosed in her 30s, and she began the arduous process of finding a treatment that worked for her. She’s tried almost every class of prescription drugs available, along with home remedies such as avoiding caffeine, staying hydrated, and practicing meditation.

After years of being physically and emotionally exhausted, Donna quit her job and applied for disability benefits. In addition to RLS, she also suffers from migraines and fibromyalgia (both made worse by lack of sleep) and is the caretaker to her aging parents, which has become a full-time job.

RLS has also affected many of Donna's relationships, including a 12-year marriage that ended in divorce, and a subsequent four-year relationship.

Today, Donna relies on opiates and nonopiate painkillers to keep her legs somewhat under control. On a good night, she gets a few hours of sleep at a time, and she finds encouragement through an online support group.

“It makes me happy to be able to help people through the group, because I meet people that are as desperate as I used to be,” she says. “There are a lot of people who want help out there.”

Read more about restless legs syndrome or other sleep disorders.