Understanding Restless Legs Syndrome

Man sitting on couch holding back of leg.Are you ever annoyed by a creeping or itching feeling in your legs? Do you often feel an urge to move your legs while sitting or lying in bed? This can keep you from falling asleep at night. You may then feel tired during the day. If you have these problems, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can suggest a treatment plan and help you find ways to sleep better.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

RLS is a creeping, crawly, or jumpy feeling in the legs with an urge to move them. Symptoms of RLS often occur during periods of inactivity, such as when you sit or lie down at night. This discomfort can keep you from falling asleep. RLS is more common in older people and tends to run in families. Overuse of caffeine or alcohol may make symptoms worse. Iron deficiency, diabetes, or kidney problems can contribute to RLS.

Periodic limb movement syndrome (PLMS)

PLMS is sudden, repetitive leg jerking during sleep. The person you sleep with is often the one who notices it. Your legs may jerk many times during the night. You and your partner may both have trouble sleeping and feel tired in the morning. PLMS shouldn’t be confused with the normal leg or body twitching many people have when first falling asleep.

Treating these problems

If these problems are causing disrupted sleep and daytime symptoms, treatment may be needed. Possible treatments may include:

  • Avoiding medicines like antidepressants, antinausea medicine, and other medicines that block dopamine

  • Iron supplements

  • Prescribed medicines including pramipexole, ropinirole, ritigotine, pregbalin, cabergoline, levodopa, and clonidine

  • Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, controlling caffeine intake, alcohol, and smoking