Everything You Need to Know About Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome is a sleep disorder commonly associated with discomfort, twitchiness and an irresistible urge to move one’s legs, most often occurring at night or after a person has gone to bed. It is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.

Since symptoms can flare up at night, RLS can affect someone’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sufferers comment that movement can help, although once the movement stops, symptoms can recur. Some believe the movement increases circulation and circulation can help manage those symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS),

“RLS is best characterized as a neurological sensory disorder with symptoms that are produced from within the brain itself. RLS is one of several disorders that can cause exhaustion and daytime sleepiness, which can strongly affect mood, concentration, job and school performance, and personal relationships.”

It is estimated that between 7-10 percent of people in the United States have RLS. RLS can occur at any age, to anyone and affects both men and women. It is noted that RLS can get worse and more frequent with age and develop into PLMS—Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep. PLMS is associated with periodic and frequent limb movements. Ironically people with RLS can also develop PLMS, but in those with PLMS doesn’t necessarily mean that they will develop Restless Leg Syndrome.

Treatments for RLS can include both drug and non-drug therapies.

So, what causes RLS? According to the NINDS, significant evidence suggests that RLS can be caused from a number of underlying conditions including, but not limited to:

  • end-stage renal disease and hemodialysis
  • iron deficiency
  • certain medications that may aggravate RLS symptoms, such as antinausea drugs (e.g. prochlorperazine or metoclopramide), antipsychotic drugs (e.g., haloperidol or phenothiazine derivatives), antidepressants that increase serotonin (e.g., fluoxetine or sertraline), and some cold and allergy medications that contain older antihistamines (e.g., diphenhydramine)
  • use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • pregnancy, especially in the last trimester; in most cases, symptoms usually disappear within 4 weeks after delivery
  • neuropathy (nerve damage).

According to the site,

“Considerable evidence also suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in one of the sections of the brain that control movement (called the basal ganglia) that use the brain chemical dopamine.  Dopamine is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement.  Disruption of these pathways frequently results in involuntary movements.  Individuals with Parkinson’s disease, another disorder of the basal ganglia’s dopamine pathways, have increased chance of developing RLS,”

RLS can also be aggravated by sleep deprivation or sleep conditions.

To read the rest of the research article, read here.