Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. RLS primarily affects the legs, but may be felt in the arms as well. It is thought to affect about 10% of population although it remains largely undiagnosed.

People experiencing RLS describe it as very unpleasant “creepy, crawly” sensations that occur in the legs when they are sitting or lying still. Symptoms are generally alleviated by movement – stretching, getting up and walking around or massage and it is this constant need to stretch or move the legs and/or arms that prevents the person with RLS from achieving and maintaining sleep.

Symptoms can also occur while awake especially in times of inactivity – long car trips, sitting reading or studying etc but are more commonly perceived in the evening when daily activity slows down and worsen when the person lays down to go to sleep.  

People with restless legs have very disrupted sleep but are mostly unaware of this. While they may realise that they are restless sleepers most do not know that they are being aroused from sleep many times a night and one of the most common symptoms of restless legs is feeling extremely tired all the time.

Once diagnosed, RLS is easily treated. It can be associated with a variety of other medical conditions and treatment will depend upon the underlying cause. More and more evidence is emerging however that in many cases there is an iron deficiency causing the RLS and that in these circumstances oral iron supplements will improve symptoms.

RLS is about twice as common in women as in men and while it used to be thought of as a condition of middle-age it is now becoming apparent that RLS may actually start at a younger age, but just remains undiagnosed until middle-age. 

Some common suggestions for treatment include massage as well as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, rhythmic exercise and other activities.  If you think that you may have RLS it is important that you consult your doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.

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