FRIDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- Short, daily sessions of hemodialysis at home may reduce sleep problems caused by restless legs syndrome in dialysis patients, according to new research.

The study -- sponsored and funded by NxStage Medical Inc., which makes home dialysis products -- is published online March 17 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Dialysis patients are about four times more likely than people in the general population to experience restless legs syndrome (RLS), which causes abnormal sensations such as pins and needles or creepy-crawly feelings in the legs while at rest. Restless legs syndrome can interfere with sleep.

This study included 235 patients who performed dialysis at home for a few hours six days a week, as an alternative to center-based treatment. This led to significant improvement in restless legs symptoms, according to the researchers.

"Over 12 months, there was decline in the percentage of patients reporting RLS and in those reporting moderate-to-severe symptoms," lead author Dr. Bertrand L. Jaber, of St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston, said in a journal news release.

The patients also reported lasting improvement in sleep problems such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

Study limitations included recruitment of relatively young patients and the absence of a control group.

Future studies will look at whether short home dialysis treatments affect hospitalization rates, the authors said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about restless legs syndrome.