Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that is characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs when they are at rest. The urge to move the legs is usually accompanied by unpleasant sensations. It is less common but possible to have RLS symptoms in the arms, torso, or other regions of the body.

RLS symptoms occur during periods of inactivity, and they are temporarily relieved by movement or pressure. Symptoms of RLS are most severe in the evening and nighttime hours. RLS symptoms most commonly interfere with the ability to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. RLS affects approximately 10% of adults in the U.S. and can often be misdiagnosed as insomnia.

Symptoms of RLS include:

  • An irresistible urge to move the legs during periods of rest or inactivity (such as while sitting or lying in bed)
  • The urge to move the legs is often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations
  • The discomfort in the legs intensifies in the evening and at night
  • Movement or rubbing of the legs temporarily relieves the uncomfortable sensations


Evaluation for low iron levels is important, as this can cause RLS. The primary mode of treatment for RLS is pharmacological. Dopamine agonist medications Requip (ropinirole) and Mirapex (pramipexole), drugs commonly used to treat Parkinson disease, are often prescribed at lower dosages to treat moderate-to-severe RLS. Caution is used with these drugs because they may cause mild nausea, dizziness, and daytime sleepiness. The dosage of these medications needs to be adjusted by the physician over time to obtain the optimally effective dose. Other medications such as gabapentin, benzodiazepines and opiates may also be used to treat RLS symptoms to improve sleep.

Sleep Topics

Sleep Basics

Children's Sleep

Restless Leg Syndrome


Sleep in Elderly

Womens' Sleep




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