July 01, 2018

Restless legs syndrome

Unwanted urge to move

You're winding down for the night, and you feel it yet again — that uncomfortable, crawling, deep-seated sensation in your legs and a gnawing, irresistible urge to move them.

Sensations such as these may be caused by restless legs syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom disease. The sensations of RLS can range from mildly annoying to incapacitating — and a key secondary symptom is difficulty getting good sleep. Combined, these can have a damaging effect on energy, vitality, thinking and mood.

That restless feeling

Diagnosing RLS is based on identifying tell-tale symptoms. These include an urge to move the legs along with:

  • An uncomfortable sensation in the thighs, calves or feet — or occasionally the arms — that may be described as creeping, jittery, tingling, electric, burning or aching. Sometimes, the urge to move the legs can occur without these sensations.
  • Sensations that begin or worsen during rest or inactivity, such as lying down or sitting, and worsen in the evening or at night.
  • Sensations that are relieved by movement, such as walking or stretching, as long as the activity continues.

It's common for people with RLS to have difficulty sleeping or to feel that sleep isn't restorative. About 80 percent of those with RLS also have periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS). This consists of nighttime leg jerking or kicking while asleep that can disturb sleep quality, often without you...