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Restless Legs Syndrome Center

4 Ways to Keep RLS From Hurting Your Sex Life

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By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
WebMD Expert Column

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) can take a toll on your relationship. It can steal your sleep and make nights less comfortable for your partner.

Over time, that adds up. The relationship problems mainly relate to issues with sleeping. Most people with RLS also have a condition known as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) -- involuntary movement of the feet and legs.

That can cause problems for your partner.

When people don’t sleep well, they tend to feel fatigued, have trouble thinking clearly, and feel more stressed. A chronic state of sleep deprivation isn’t good for anyone, or their relationships.

If one partner’s RLS is bad enough that it interferes with their own and the other person’s sleep, then both people are chronically sleep deprived.

There are steps you can take to make sure your relationship stays strong despite your RLS.

It goes beyond treating your RLS or adjusting your lifestyle. It's also about how you communicate with your partner -- in general and about RLS.

1. Talk with your partner about your RLS. Help your partner understand why you are pacing or moving around a lot. Conversation can prevent misunderstandings, such as thinking you just aren’t interested in him or her. Talking can also help you feel understood and supported, which could relieve some of your stress.

2. Take warm baths together. Bathing alone is fine, of course, but bathing with your partner offers a chance for communication, stress relief, and enjoyable intimate time together.

3. Enjoy a leg massage. A loving leg massage can relieve symptoms of RLS. Expand it to a full body massage, if you like.

4. Have sex. Some research links orgasm to the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which can ease RLS symptoms. One man reportedly eased his RLS symptoms through masturbation and sexual intercourse. His case was reported in the medical journal Sleep Medicine in 2011. There’s not a lot of literature supporting this approach, but it’s certainly worth a try. 

You might try having sex early in the evening to relieve RLS symptoms a little later in the night; especially if RLS causes you both to lose sleep or if you have even had to resort to sleeping in separate bedrooms. Being able to enjoy the closeness of being in bed together can help keep your relationship strong. 

Reviewed on September 07, 2012

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