7. What are Restless Legs
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common movement disorder where sufferers feel the need to move their legs while trying to fall asleep, usually because they feel achy or uncomfortable.For people with RLS, leg movement offers temporary relief from these unpleasant sensations.
The leg sensations associated with RLS have been described as a near-constant feeling of crawling, creeping, pulling, throbbing, aching or itching that occurs within the legs, rather than along the skin.
These uncomfortable sensations usually begin after an extended period of sitting or lying down, causing an overwhelming urge to move, either by stretching or jiggling the legs or by standing and walking.
While it’s not uncommon for people with RLS to experience symptoms during the day, symptoms tend to be worse at night, which disturbs sleep.
People of all ages are susceptible to restless leg syndrome, although it is more common among older adults, pregnant women, and people with poor circulation.
RLS can occur for short periods of time or the condition may literally last a lifetime.
And, if left untreated you are at risk for other issues, such as:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Restless sleep
What causes restless leg syndrome?
A variety of physical and lifestyle factors can cause restless leg syndrome, such as:
- Low blood iron levels
- Poor blood circulation in the legs
- Nerve problems in the spine or legs
- Muscle disorders
- Kidney disorders
- Certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies
While researchers haven’t pinpointed a specific cause or set of factors that give rise to RLS, they have discovered that the condition appears to be linked to an imbalance of dopamine, the brain chemical that helps produce smooth, controlled muscle movement.
RLS also appears to have a genetic component, as it tends to run in families — roughly 70% of all children with RLS also have a parent with the disorder. Ironically, sleep deprivation from a separate sleep disorder (such as sleep apnea) can trigger or exacerbate RLS in some people. Addressing the primary sleep problem often helps relieving symptoms.
How is restless leg syndrome diagnosed?
Check any / all that apply to your situation.
I feel like I need to move my legs while in bed.
I experience an uncomfortable sensation in my legs while trying to fall asleep.
My legs feel like things are “crawling” on them when I’m in bed.
My persistent urge to move my legs keeps me awake.
I “jerk” or kick while sleeping or in bed.
If you are experiencing just one of the symptoms included in the list above, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Battle. In addition to evaluating the nature, severity, frequency, and timing of your symptoms, the assessment also requires Dr. Battle to investigate other possible causes of your symptoms.
How is restless leg syndrome treated?
Finding the RLS solutions that relieve your symptoms is not only essential in helping you get a good night’s sleep, but it’s also important because untreated RLS tends to worsen over time, causing more intense symptoms and becoming more interruptive to sleep.
Although there’s no single approach, therapy, or medication that works for all RLS patients, many people find significant relief by treating an associated medical condition, such as nerve damage, diabetes, or iron deficiency anemia.
Lifestyle changes that can help relieve mild to moderate RLS include:
- Avoiding alcohol and cigarettes
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
- Exercising most days of the week
- Massaging your legs regularly
- Taking warm baths before bedtime
Based on your specific needs, Dr. Battle can help you find the most effective — and most natural — solutions to relieve your symptoms and help you get the sleep you need.