Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

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Restless leg syndrome facts

  • Restless leg syndrome is a condition marked by unpleasant leg sensations at bedtime.
  • Restless leg syndrome frequency leads to insomnia.
  • The cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown in most individuals, but many conditions have been associated with it.
  • Treatment of restless leg syndrome is directed toward any underlying illness, if known.
  • Medications are available for restless leg syndrome.

What is restless leg syndrome (RLS)?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS, restless legs syndrome) is a common cause of painful legs. The leg pain of restless leg syndrome typically eases with motion of the legs and becomes more noticeable at rest. Restless leg syndrome also features worsening of symptoms and leg pain during the early evening or later at night.

Restless leg syndrome is often abbreviated RLS; it has also been termed shaking leg syndrome. Nighttime involuntary jerking of the legs during sleep are also known as periodic leg/limb movement disorder.

What causes restless leg syndrome?

The cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown in most people. However, restless leg syndrome has been associated with

Some drugs and medications have been associated with restless leg syndrome including:

Occasionally, restless leg syndrome run in families. Recent studies have shown that restless leg syndrome appears to become more common as a person ages. Also, poor venous circulation of the legs (such as with varicose veins) can cause restless leg syndrome.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/9/2014

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Sleep

Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

No matter how much sleep you need, if you don't get enough, you will suffer the effects of sleep deprivation. Research has shown that in tests of driving ability and hand-eye coordination, people deprived of sleep perform as badly as, or even worse than, people who are intoxicated. It's no wonder that drowsiness is a major cause of traffic accidents and deaths.

Are you getting enough sleep? Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you often feel drowsy during the day?
  2. Do you usually fall asleep within the first five minutes after lying down in bed?

If you answered yes to either of these, you're likely to be sleep deprived or have a sleep disorder. There are many different types of sleep disorders. Examples include:

  • restless legs syndrome (RLS),
  • insomnia,
  • sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea,
  • periodic limb movement disorder, and
  • sleepwalking.

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