Restless Leg Syndrome and Sleep

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder where a person has the overwhelming need to move their legs, sometimes accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. The symptoms commonly develop during times of inactivity and are briefly relieved by movement. It is particularly prevalent in the evening and at night, and can interfere with sleep and significantly reduce the quality of life. Those suffering with RLS struggle with falling and staying asleep and, in turn, have to deal with severe sleep deprivation.

Approximately 10 percent of Americans adults are affected by Restless Leg Syndrome, which is commonly misdiagnosed as insomnia or another condition. Over 70 percent of children suffering with RLS have at least one parent with an identical condition.

At first, RLS may be misdiagnosed as growing pains in children. The severity of RLS seems to increase with age and older patients experience more symptoms for longer periods of time.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome

The cause of Restless Leg Syndrome is unknown. Studies have shown that RLS runs in families and may have some form of genetic component. In some cases, the condition may be primary, when it is unrelated to other medical conditions, which account for about 40-60 percent of RLS diagnoses. RLS is deemed secondary if it is a side effect of an underlying medical condition that may include pregnancy, kidney failure, or anemia. It can also be a side effect of certain medication.

More than 80 percent of those affected with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder, which includes involuntary leg twitching and jerking movements during sleep.

If you suspect you have Restless Leg Syndrome, speak to a doctor as soon as possible. It may be helpful to keep a sleep diary for recording your symptoms and their severity, as there is no specific diagnostic test for RLS that exists. Your sleep diary records may include when the symptoms take place and what you were doing at the time that they occurred. Your doctor will perform tests to rule out other conditions you may have which may cause your symptoms, such as kidney failure, iron deficiency, or pregnancy.

Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome

The medications used to treat Restless Leg Syndrome are also used to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms, except at a lower dose. It is possible for symptoms to improve even after one week following the beginning of treatment.

Non-drug methods for treating Restless Leg Syndrome include walking, massaging the legs, stretching, vibration, acupressure and hot or cold packs. Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation have also been known to alleviate symptoms.

To learn more about Restless Leg Syndrome treatment, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.