Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder in which a person
experiences unpleasant sensations in the legs described as creeping, crawling,
tingling, pulling, or painful. These sensations usually occur in the calf area
but may be felt anywhere from the thigh to the ankle. One or both legs may be
affected; for some people, the sensations are also felt in the arms. These
sensations occur when the person with RLS lies down or sits for prolonged
periods of time, such as at a desk, riding in a car, or watching a movie.
People with RLS describe an irresistible urge to move the legs when the
sensations occur. Usually, moving the legs, walking, rubbing or massaging the
legs, or doing knee bends can bring relief, at least briefly. RLS symptoms
worsen during periods of relaxation and decreased activity.
RLS symptoms also tend to follow a set daily cycle, with the evening and
night hours being more troublesome for RLS sufferers than the morning hours.
People with RLS may find it difficult to relax and fall asleep because of their
strong urge to walk or do other activities to relieve the sensations in their
legs. Persons with RLS often sleep best toward the end of the night or during
the morning hours. Because of less sleep at night, people with RLS may feel
sleepy during the day on an occasional or regular basis. The severity of
symptoms varies from night to night and over the years as well. For some
individuals, there may be periods when RLS does not cause problems, but the
symptoms usually return. Other people may experience severe symptoms daily.
Recommended Related to Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Many people with RLS also have a related sleep disorder called periodic limb
movements in sleep (PLMS). PLMS is characterized by involuntary jerking or
bending leg movements during sleep that typically occur every 10 to 60 seconds.
Some people may experience hundreds of such movements per night, which can wake
them, disturb their sleep, and awaken bed partners. People who have RLS and
PLMS have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep and may experience
extreme sleepiness during the day. As a result of problems both in sleeping and
while awake, people with RLS may have difficulties with their job, social life,
and recreational activities.
Common Characteristics of Restless Legs Syndrome
Some Common Symptomsof RLS Include:
Unpleasant sensations in the legs (sometimes the arms as well), often
described as creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling, or painful;
Leg sensations are relieved by walking, stretching, knee bends, massage, or
hot or cold baths;
Leg discomfort occurs when lying down or sitting for prolonged periods of
The symptoms are worse in the evening and during the night.