Overview

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is when you feel very unpleasant "creepy-crawly" (or even painful) sensations in your legs while you're sitting or lying still, especially at bedtime.

People can experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) in different ways. Although it affects mostly the legs, RLS can also affect your arms. Most people will develop RLS in their calves. It's not related to emotional or psychological stress or disorders.

Why Does Restless Leg Syndrome Cause Bad Sleep?

If you have restless leg syndrome, you can temporarily relieve it by stretching or moving the limb where you're experiencing the sensation. But, constantly needing to stretch or move your limbs to relieve these sensations can keep you from falling asleep.

Because of this, a person with RLS might be very tired during the day and unable to work or perform tasks well. Their social activities may be affected because they have excessive fatigue.

RLS may also impact how long you can sit still at the movies, at a concert, in business meetings, or travel by plane or car.

How Common is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Five to 10 people out of every 100 will experience RLS at some point in their lives. Restless leg syndrome is more common for older individuals, but it can happen at any age. It can be severe during pregnancy, especially during the last six months.

Causes & Treatment

RLS may come and go without any obvious cause over the course of a person's life. 

Doctors don't know exactly what causes RLS, but some related conditions will increase your chances of developing it. About 30 percent of restless legs cases appear to be hereditary, which means that a parent will pass it down to their child through their genes. 

Other related causes might include the following:

  • iron deficiency anemia
  • antidepressants
  • nerve problems
  • disorders of the kidneys
  • alcoholism
  • vitamin or mineral deficiencies
  • drinking caffeine
  • fatigue
  • sleep deprivation

Treatment

Making a visit with a sleep specialist can help you determine if you have restless leg syndrome. The following home remedies have also worked for some people:

  • hot baths
  • massages
  • pain relievers
  • ice or hot packs

Depending on how severe your RLS is, your sleep specialist may prescribe medications to help.