Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is commonly treated at the Sleep Disorder Institute of Riverside Medical Center. This syndrome causes sleeping difficulties for many people. About 10 percent of Americans have overpowering urges to move their legs, especially when they are resting or sleeping.
RLS is a collection of symptoms generally described as unpleasant sensations and an urge to move the lower legs. The arms and other body parts can be affected. People with the syndrome usually say the sensations are difficult to describe, but they use terms like:
The symptoms are worse when lying down or sitting and are relieved by standing up or walking around.
Symptoms of RLS
To have RLS, you must have the following symptoms or situations:
- A desire or urge to move the limbs, often caused or accompanied by unpleasant sensations—possible pain deep inside your legs
- Symptoms are worse after period of inactivity—such as resting, lying, sitting
- Symptoms are partially or totally relieved by activity, such as walking or moving around, and return when the activity ends
- Symptoms fluctuate during the day—peak time for symptoms around midnight, with sleep easier in the early morning hours
The symptoms of RLS affect people differently. They can occur only occasionally, in certain situations, or they can be frequent. They can range from mild to intolerable. RLS can start at any age, but most people are middle-aged or older.
Treatment of RLS
The first step in treating RLS is determining the cause behind it. If you have another condition such as a neurological disease that causes symptoms similar to RLS, this condition should be treated. Your health care provider may change medications that could cause RLS symptoms. Your provider may order a blood test to determine if you have an iron deficiency.
Maintaining good sleep habits can help relieve symptoms:
- Go to sleep and wake on the same schedule each day.
- Use your bed for sleep and intimacy, not for reading or other activities.
- Before bed, avoid activities or substances such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine that might keep you awake. A gentle walk, a warm bath or shower, or a gentle leg massage before bed may be helpful
- A healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise can help.