01/30/2012 01:31 pm ET

Your Sleep Questions Answered: Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless leg syndrome is a common sleep disorder that usually affects middle-aged and older adults and may also affect people with celiac disease. It is more common in women than in men. We scoured the Web to find answers to some frequently asked questions about restless leg syndrome, giving you background information so that you or your loved one can literally sleep better at night.

Note: You should not rely on the information in this post as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Andrea Hermitt

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a disorder in which there is an urge or need to move the legs to stop unpleasant sensations. It has been described by an RLS sufferer on Health.com as "an electrical surge or energy building up" through the leg that induces in the sufferer a need to move it. "The more you suppress it, the worse it gets," says the patient.


People with restless leg syndrome report sensations of crawling, pulling, tingling, cramping, creeping, pulling, itching, tugging, gnawing and burning. The feelings may be painful, tense, uncomfortable and achy. They will start during inactivity, so sufferers may achieve temporary relief by moving, giggling, or getting up and walking around.


The causes for restless leg syndrome are unknown. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, a genetic component is suspected, as "RLS is often found in families where the onset of symptoms is before age 40." Restless leg syndrome may also be related to chronic diseases, certain medications and pregnancy.

Standard Treatment

While there is no cure for restless leg syndrome, WebMD reports that there are treatments for some of the underlying problems. Sufferers are asked to avoid substances or food that may worsen the problem. Underlying medical conditions are treated and a massage may be recommended; additionally, medication that lessens symptoms may be prescribed.


Restless leg syndrome is not life-threatening and is not in itself an indicator of any other disorder, says Lifespan.com. It is, however, uncomfortable.

Quality Of Life

Restless leg syndrome can disrupt sleep, causing insomnia, which results in sleepiness during the day. Restless leg syndrome can also make it difficult to remain seated and can affect work and social situations.

Coping With RLS

According to WebMD, symptoms of restless leg syndrome can be alleviated by taking short walks during the day or at least jogging in place for a few minutes. Take five-minute breaks every hour to stretch or move around and end your day by gently stretching your legs. Try hot baths at night and ice packs to calm restless legs.

Have you ever suffered from restless leg syndrome? What worked best for you?