National Sleep Foundation

Chapter 7: Sleep-Related Movement Disorders

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a sensorimotor disorder characterized by an almost irresistible urge to move one’s legs (or, more rarely, one’s arms). (It is also called “Willis-Ekbom disease.”)

RLS is associated with disagreeable leg sensations that worsen during periods of inactivity and have a profound and negative impact on a person’s sleep.16
Those who suffer from RLS describe the uncomfortable leg sensations with words like: creepy- crawly, tingly, painful, burning, and achy. The feeling is described as being like worms or bugs crawling deep in the muscle, or like water running under the skin. Up to half of those with RLS describe these sensations as painful.17

Activity (such as walking or moving the legs) usually relieves this feeling immediately.

RLS symptoms follow a circadian pattern, with many patients experiencing more severe symptoms in the evening and night, with the worst symptoms occurring after midnight.18 19

References

16 Hening WA. Restless legs syndrome: a sensorimotor disorder of sleep/wake motor regulation. Curr Neurol Neurosci. 2002;2:186-196.
17 Montplasir J, Allen RP, Walters A, Ferini-Strambi L, “Restless Legs Syndrome and Period Limb Movements During Sleep,” in Kryger M, Roth T, Dement W (ed.), Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (5th Edition), St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, 2011, pages 1026 - 1037.
18 Allen RP, Walters AS, Montplaisir J, et al. Restless Legs Syndrome Prevalence and Impact. REST General Population Study. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:1286-1292.
19 Montplasir J, Allen RP, Walters A, Ferini-Strambi L, “Restless Legs Syndrome and Period Limb Movements During Sleep,” in Kryger M, Roth T, Dement W (ed.), Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (5th Edition), St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, 2011, pages 1026 - 1037.