What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Dr. Dan JensenSleep

Dr. Dan Jensen
Latest posts by Dr. Dan Jensen (see all)

Have you noticed any uncomfortable sensations in your legs, or felt the sudden and uncontrollable urge to move your legs? This is Restless Leg Syndrome, and it can have a major impact on your sleep. If you have Restless Leg Syndrome, here are the best ways to manage the condition, and get a good night’s rest.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom disease, is a condition that creates uncomfortable feelings or sensations in your legs. The sensations will make you move your legs, and RLS is usually described as uncontrollable. It can affect people of any age, but it generally gets worse with age, and will also get worse over time.

If you have Restless Leg Syndrome, you’ll most likely notice it in the evenings or during the night. When you’re relaxing in the evening, or when you’re in bed at night you may feel the urge to move your legs. When RLS symptoms occur at night, the sudden movements will keep you awake and make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.

The Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

The most noticeable symptom of RLS is the desire to move your legs. This urge is so strong that you move your legs without even thinking about it. The sensations are different for everyone, but can be described as a crawling, throbbing, creeping, itching, or aching feeling on the legs.

There are a few other symptoms of RLS, including:

  • The urge to move is most noticeable in the evening: the symptoms of RLS usually manifest only in the evening or at night.
  • The symptoms begin when you relax: RLS is most noticeable when you’ve been resting, either sitting down for a long time, or lying in bed.
  • The symptoms diminish when you move: If you have RLS, the uncomfortable sensations will go away when you move, and you can stretch, shake your legs, or walk to get rid of the feeling.
  • Nighttime leg movement: RLS often leads to leg twitching at night, and your legs will move or kick during sleep.

Doctors don’t know what causes Restless Leg Syndrome. Some researchers think it’s related to dopamine levels in the brain, while others suggest it’s a problem with blood circulation. Whatever the cause, if you have RLS it can have a negative effect on your life. You may not be able to rest comfortably or get enough sleep at night. You may feel daytime fatigue, and struggle to focus on tasks. RLS can even lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Treating Restless Leg Syndrome

With all these negative consequences, it’s important to treat restless leg syndrome as soon as you notice it. Start by looking for risk factors in your life. Take a look at your habits, and see if any of them could be causing RLS. Caffeine, alcohol, and even tobacco can contribute to RLS, so cut back on these substances to manage your RLS. Some medications can also lead to RLS, so check with your doctor to see if the medications you’re taking could be causing these symptoms.

Develop Good Sleep Hygiene

If you have Restless Leg Syndrome, sleep hygiene is incredibly important. Since RLS mostly affects you when you’re resting during the evening or at night, good sleep habits will help you manage the symptoms of RLS. Think about your sleep habits, and make these changes:

  • Develop a sleep routine, and go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Turn down the temperature in your room at night to help you fall asleep more easily.
  • Use blinds or curtains to make the room dark at night.
  • Avoid using your phone or watching TV in your room, and stop using screens around two hours before going to bed.
  • Exercise during the day to relieve RLS symptoms and help you sleep better.
  • Do some light stretching in the evening before bed to ease RLS symptoms before resting.

Developing these healthy habits will help you fall asleep easily, and sleep better. Getting enough sleep will help minimize the effects of RLS, and reduce the symptoms. If you’re struggling to manage your Restless Leg Syndrome, contact us for a consultation and we can help you get the rest you need.