Diagnosis and management of sleep apnea syndrome and restless legs syndrome in dialysis patients

Semin Dial. May-Jun 2006;19(3):210-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-139X.2006.00157.x.


Sleep complaints are very common in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and contribute to their impaired quality of life. Both obstructive and central sleep apnea syndromes are reported more often in patients on dialysis than in the general population. Impaired daytime functioning, sleepiness, and fatigue, as well as cognitive problems, are well known in patients with sleep apnea. Increasing evidence supports the pathophysiological role of sleep apnea in cardiovascular disorders, which are the leading cause of death in ESRD patients. Uremic factors may be involved in the pathogenesis of sleep apnea in this patient population and optimal dialysis may reduce disease severity. Furthermore, treatment with continuous positive airway pressure may improve quality of life and may help to manage hypertension in these patients. Secondary restless legs syndrome is highly prevalent in patients on maintenance dialysis. The pathophysiology of the disorder may also involve uremia-related factors, iron deficiency, and anemia, but genetic and lifestyle factors might also play a role. The treatment of restless legs syndrome involves various pharmacologic approaches and might be challenging in severe cases. In this article we review the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, with a focus on dialysis patients. We also briefly review current data regarding sleep problems after transplantation, since these studies may indirectly shed light on the possible pathophysiological role of uremia or dialysis in the etiology of sleep disorders. Considering the importance of sleep disorders, more awareness among professionals involved in the care of patients on dialysis is necessary. Appropriate management of sleep disorders could improve the quality of life and possibly even impact upon survival of renal patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / etiology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy*