What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Have you ever felt an uncomfortable sensation in your legs at night—perhaps best described as crawling, aching, burning, pulling, or itching—accompanied by an irresistible urge to move them? If so, you may be suffering from restless legs syndrome.

Restless legs syndrome, or RLS for short, is a condition that typically happens in the evening or nighttime hours, when you are resting, sitting down, or lying down. Moving your legs can help relieve the unpleasant sensation temporarily. RLS can begin at any age but tends to worsen over time and occurs more often in females than males. Although its cause is often unknown, RLS may accompany other conditions such as an iron deficiency, kidney failure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, and nerve damage.

The severity of RLS varies across individuals. For some, it is simply an occasion nuisance that is noticed only after being still for long periods of time. For others, it can make falling asleep very difficult, resulting in disrupted sleep patterns and next-day effects such as excessive sleepiness, poor concentration, low mood, memory problems, and impaired judgement. 

If you believe RLS is robbing you from a good night’s sleep, it is important to talk to your family physician to help find a solution. For mild cases, lifestyle changes such as exercising, avoiding certain substances (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine), and having massages or taking baths may help relieve symptoms. For more bothersome cases, medication therapy or treating an associated condition (e.g., iron deficiency) may be prescribed. 

If you are also experiencing insomnia, the good news is HALEO’s cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT-I) program may be appropriate for you. Click here to learn more about chronic insomnia and its recommended treatment. 

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