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Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition where symptoms of "restlessness" of the limbs cause daytime discomfort and nocturnal limb movements that may lead to sleep disruption. When occurring during sleep, the condition is known more specifically as periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS). These common conditions usually manifest in adulthood and may affect half of the elderly population. RLS and PLMS have been associated with pregnancy, advancing age, iron deficiency and kidney disease.

Symptoms of restlessness of the limbs may include uncomfortable sensations of "bugs crawling" or "electrical impulses" throughout the limbs, causing patient to overcome these sensations by moving the limbs. These symptoms are usually more prominent in the evening hours, shortly before bedtime. The same electrical impulses that cause these symptoms through the day can also cause abnormal limb movements throughout the night. Tremendous disruption in sleep continuity can occur with the patient (and frequently the bed partner!). Stage III and IV sleep is often markedly reduced through the night. Patients may complain of excessive daytime sleepiness because of the tremendous compromise of sleep quality that can result from fragmentation of sleep. The clinical diagnosis of restless leg syndrome is often based on the history. The diagnosis of PLMS may require a polysomnogram.

Restless leg syndrome may be treated conservatively or with medications. Examples of conservative therapies are exercise or warm baths before bedtime. In patients with disabling symptoms treatment with medication may be required with dopaminergic agents, narcotic agents, or benzodiazepines.

PCCAB has a dedicated web site related to our Sleep Services. Please click the link below to learn more about this division of our services.

Sleep Medicine Associates of Maryland