Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes sleep disruption in about 2-3% of adults. Symptoms are “activated” at night when a person tries to lie down and relax. Symptoms range from mild to severe throbbing, creeping, pulling and/or other painful sensations in the legs. As a result, the person has a strong urge to move their legs to minimize the discomfort.
The cause of this condition appears to be relatively unknown, although researchers have identified a genetic link among RLS sufferers. The condition is common to run through families and generally starts before age 40. It seems that RLS is related to an abnormality in the brain’s basal ganglia circuitry. This pathway is usually in charge of producing fluid, purposeful movement. RLS is also linked to chronic diseases like diabetes, certain medications such as antipsychotic drugs, and the last trimester of pregnancy.
You may have restless legs syndrome if you are often prompted to move your legs when lying down or relaxing in order to relieve or minimize unpleasant and/or painful sensations in your legs. These nighttime or at-rest symptoms may result in an involuntary jerking or moving of the limbs, sleep disruption, daytime fatigue, and significant interference with work, school, or relationship functioning. See a doctor right away if you are experiencing symptoms representative of RLS.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for restless legs syndrome. However, this condition is treatable. Treatment involves a broad scope of interventions aimed at improving sleep quality, fighting stress, and removing risk factors for RLS. Your sleep medicine doctor will work with you to identify and alleviate any lifestyle habits that are worsening your condition. In addition, you may be taught a variety of stress reduction techniques to use such as stretching, massage, or bath therapy.