RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME (RLS)

Is anything more frustrating than being tired enough to sleep, but discomfort is keeping you awake? 

Sadly, millions of Americans have a similar experience each night when they lie down for bed.  They have what is called restless leg syndrome. 

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common sleep disorder which often doesn’t involve sleeping.  RLS is considered a disorder of sleep because it is frequently experienced in pre-sleep situations, such as lying down at night or for long inactive periods (i.e. sitting in a car, plane, or movie theater).

Sufferers report an unpleasant tingling sensation – described as pins and needles – throughout their legs while sitting or lying down to rest.  The intensity of this discomfort is temporarily soothed by moving their legs in a restless manor. 

RLS impairs the ability to fall asleep due to this chronic need for movement, which creates a level of sleep deprivation.    

What causes RLS?

The exact cause of RLS is often a mystery since lab results don’t always reveal any abnormality.  However, the condition has been linked to several factors such as:

  • Iron deficiency

  • Certain medications

  • Pregnancy (especially the 3rd trimester)

  • Kidney disease

  • Prolonged immobility

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Nicotine use

  • Caffeine intake

Recent discoveries have also linked RLS with a dysfunction in dopamine pathways to the brain (similar to Parkinson’s disease).

How to test for RLS?

There is no sleep diagnostic test for RLS since symptoms are experienced while awake.  A diagnosis is made by a sleep physician evaluation. 

Take this short quiz to find out if you may have RLS:

  1. Do you often have an irresistible urge to move your legs due to uncomfortable sensations?

  2. Does this urge to move your legs start or get worse during rest or inactivity?

  3. Is this urge to move your legs temporarily eliminated if you move them?

  4. Does this urge to move your legs begin or get worse in the evening or night?

  5. Can this urge to move your legs be due to any other current medical diagnosis?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may want to speak to your physician about the possibility of RLS. 

Treatment options for RLS

Treatment options for RLS range from lifestyle changes, supplements, or medications depending on the severity. 

Lifestyle Changes

  • Practice essential sleep hygiene

  • Avoid or reduce alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco intake

  • Maintain a regular exercise routine

  • Massage (especially the legs)

  • Warm baths before bed

  • Use hot and/or cold packs

  • Stretch legs

Supplements

  • Iron

  • Magnesium

Medications

Come speak with our sleep specialists before trying any pharmaceutical treatments for RLS.