Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder that involves an intense urge to move your legs close to bedtime. Symptoms vary and can be hard to describe but many people complain of aching sensations in their legs but the pain is different than a muscle cramp. The sensation usually involves the calf muscles in your legs and is often noticed more when sitting or lying still. Some people find relief by stretching or walking around the room. The sensations can migrate to your arms and other parts of your body. RLS often results in poor sleep quality and makes if difficulty to sit still for long periods of time. Fragmented sleep patters due to RLS can lead to anxiety and depression.

Many people who suffer from RLS also have Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep or PLMS. These movements during sleep can be described as leg jerks or kicks and can occur hundreds of times throughout the night. PLMS can be frequent or occur in clusters and may also occur in the arms. Usually you are unaware of PLMS and do not have control over them. Often, it is your bed partner who notices this disorder. PLMS can also contribute to poor sleep quality. Brief awakenings from sleep or “microarousals” can occur making your sleep architecture very fragmented. As a result, people may feel unrefreshed or complain of excessive daytime sleepiness.

What causes RLS/PLMS?

Researchers believe deficiencies in the neurotransmitter dopamine may play a role in this disorder. The following conditions may also be associated with a cause: Low iron levels, Circulatory problems in your legs, Neuropathy in the spine or legs, muscle disorders, kidney problems, alcoholism, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

How is RLS/PLMS Diagnosed?

Diagnosis may require visiting with a sleep disorder specialist or neurologist. Blood work and overnight sleep studies are typically involved in making a diagnosis. Having these common symptoms can indicate that you have RLS:

  • Intense urge to move your legs
  • Aching or crawling sensations in your legs
  • Symptoms are worse when sitting or lying down
  • Leg movement relieves symptoms
  • Symptoms are worse in the evening or close to bedtime

How is RLS/PLMS Treated?

The first step involves ruling out any underlying cause such as iron deficiency, diabetes or arthritis. Medications can be an effective means of treatment once the condition has been detected. Other home remedies such as hot baths, massage, heat, ice, pain relievers, and exercise can help alleviate the symptoms. Your physician will help you determine what the best treatment options are for you.