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Understanding Restless Legs Syndrome

Man sitting on couch holding back of leg.

Are you ever annoyed by a creeping or itching feeling in your legs? Do you often feel an urge to move your legs while sitting or lying in bed? This can keep you from falling asleep at night. You may then feel tired during the day. If you have these problems, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can suggest a treatment plan and help you find ways to sleep better.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

RLS is a creeping, crawly, or jumpy feeling in the legs. It makes you want to move them. Symptoms of RLS often occur when you aren't active. This discomfort can keep you from falling asleep. RLS is more common in older people and tends to run in families. Overuse of caffeine or alcohol may make symptoms worse. Iron deficiency, diabetes, or kidney problems can contribute to RLS. In more severe cases, you may also have symptoms in your arms.

Periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS)

PLMS is sudden, repetitive leg jerking during sleep. The person you sleep with is often the one who notices it. Your legs may jerk many times during the night. You and your partner may both have trouble sleeping and feel tired in the morning. PLMS shouldn’t be confused with the normal leg or body twitching many people have when first falling asleep. Many people with RLS also have PLMS.

Treating these problems

If RLS causes poor sleep and daytime symptoms, you may need help. Options include:

  • Not using medicines for depression and nausea.

  • Taking iron pills

  • Using prescribed medicines for RLS.

  • Making lifestyle changes like exercise. Also limit caffeine and alcohol. And, don't smoke.

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