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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Sleep Disorders Center

Restless Legs Syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder in which abnormal creeping sensations or discomfort occur in the legs (and occasionally in the feet, thighs and arms), and can be relieved only by frequent, irresistible movements of the legs. The sensations usually occur shortly after going to bed but may also occur during the daytime.

Restless leg syndrome occurs most often in middle-aged and older adults, although a heredity form of the disorder can occur at a younger age. The cause is not known, but RLS may occur more often in patients with peripheral neuropathy, chronic kidney disease, Parkinson's disease, pregnancy, iron deficiency, or the use of certain medications. It is worsened by stress or emotional upset.

Restless leg syndrome is not dangerous or life-threatening, but it can result in decreased quality of sleep, insomnia, and subsequent daytime sleepiness, anxiety or depression. There are numerous treatment therapies available for the condition.