If you’ve never heard of this semi-maddening, sleep-altering issue, count yourself and your loved ones as blessed! Sadly, 10% of the adult population in the U.S. is afflicted by this condition which seriously should be called “rest-less” leg syndrome. Here’s why:

Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is characterized by strong, unsettling sensations, such as tension, itchiness, or cramping, which build up within the legs as a person begins to settle down for the evening. These terribly bothersome symptoms create an overwhelming urge to move ones legs in order get the feelings to dissipate. In fact, it’s this “U.R.G.E.” which is used to diagnose RLS.

U – Uncontrollable need to move your legs.
R – Rest-induced.
G – Gets better with activity.
E – Evening accentuation.

Unfortunately, even though the symptoms can be silenced by movement, there is no lasting resolve. As soon as those restless legs come to rest, the annoying sensations will begin to build up, driving a person to, once again, move their legs.

My girlfriend’s husband has suffered with RLS for over a decade. He has been relegated to sleeping on the couch—both because my friend can’t sleep a wink with his constant motion and because watching TV helps to settle his legs long enough to allow him to eventually fall asleep. (Oddly, mental activity has the same helpful effect on the symptoms of RLS as physical activity.)

RLS does not typically pose a problem during the day, but rather ramps up as person begins to settle down in the late evening. The symptoms tend to peak between 11pm and 3am—perfectly timed to ruin your night’s sleep!

While there are a number of lifestyle changes which have been shown to lessen this condition, about 2-3 % of people will eventually require prescription medication, such as Requip® or Mirapex®, to find sleep-restoring relief. But user beware—often times a patient will build up a tolerance to the prescribed dosage and need increasingly larger dosages in order to get the same relief.

3 Responses to "Restless legs syndrome"

  • Barbara Warren says:

    I dealt with RLS for years (have not been diagnosed for it, so want to state that up front.) and did not go on medication for it. However, my family can tell you, I had all the symptoms you describe. My answer and “miracle cure” if you will, has been taking Vitamin D. I started to take it daily sometime in December of 2012 and have not had one single episode of RLS since. Praise the Lord…it is a horrible experince.

  • Lisa Morrone, PT says:

    Glad–yes, in my book, Sleep Well Again, I offer all of those self-helps. Happy to hear you’ve found a way to manage your condition!

  • Glad Meiers says:

    I also suffered for years with RLS. I used the drug Requip and tolerance does build fast. The thing that made me stop using that drug was the horrific nightmares I was having while using it. Relief came when I realized that if I was well hydrated and refrained from use of caffeine after mid day (that means coffee, chocolate, sodas with caffeine), I did not experience the RLS. When I slipped and had coffee late afternoon, the symptoms would return. It worked for me,,,maybe it would for you.

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