Is Restless Legs Syndrome Keeping You Awake?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable while you're sitting or lying down. It usually makes you feel like getting up and moving around. When you do so, the unpleasant feeling of restless legs syndrome goes away.
People typically describe the unpleasant sensations of restless legs syndrome as "deep-seated, creeping, crawling, jittery, tingling, burning or aching" feelings in their lower limbs. Sometimes the sensations seem to defy description. People usually don't describe the condition as a muscle cramp or numbness.
Often the symptoms become more severe when you lay down to sleep, causing an inability to initially fall asleep or waking you up repeatedly throughout the night. Restless legs syndrome affects both sexes, can begin at any age, and may worsen as you get older.
What Is Restless Legs Syndrome? Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sensory disorder causing an almost irresistible urge to move the legs. The urge to move is usually due to unpleasant feelings in the legs that occur when at rest. People with RLS use words such as creeping, crawling, tingling, or burning to describe these feelings. Moving the legs eases the feelings, but only for a while. The unpleasant feelings may also occur in the arms.
Effects of RLS: RLS can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. People with RLS often don’t get enough sleep and may feel tired and sleepy during the day. This can make it difficult to:
- Concentrate, making it harder to learn and remember things
- Carry out other usual daily activities
- Take part in family and social activities
- Not getting enough sleep can also make you feel depressed or have mood swings.
RLS can range from mild to severe, based on:
- How much discomfort you have in your legs and arms
- Whether you feel the need to move around
- How much relief you get from moving around
- How much sleep disturbance you have
- How tired or sleepy you are during the day
- How often you have symptoms
- How severe your symptoms are on most days
- How well you carry out daily activities
- How angry, depressed, sad, anxious, or irritable you feel
There are two types of RLS:
Primary RLS is the most common type of RLS. It is also called idiopathic RLS. “Primary” means the cause is not known. Primary RLS, once it starts, usually becomes a lifelong condition. Over time, symptoms tend to get worse and occur more often, especially if they began in childhood or early in adult life. In milder cases, there may be long periods of time with no symptoms, or symptoms may last only for a limited time.
Secondary RLS is RLS that is caused by another disease or condition or, sometimes, from taking certain medicines. Symptoms usually go away when the disease or condition improves, or if the medicine is stopped.