National Sleep Foundation

Chapter 7: Sleep-Related Movement Disorders

Prevalence of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Prevalence of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

The overall prevalence of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) ranges from 5 to 10% of the adult population, making it the most common sleep-related movement disorder, and one of the most common sleep disorders in general.20

RLS increases with age, and is more common among women, who experience RLS twice as much as men. 21 22 23 24 This gender difference appears to be largely related to pregnancy; women who have never been pregnant have about the same risk of RLS as men do.25 26  

RLS is often misdiagnosed as “growing pains” in children.

References

20 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.
21 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.
22 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.
23 Hening W, Walters AS, Allen RP, et al. Impact, diagnosis, and treatment of restless legs syndrome (RLS) in a primary care population: the REST (RLS epidemiology, symptoms, and treatment) primary care study. Sleep Med. 2004;5:237-246.
24 Phillips B, Young T, Finn L, Asher K, Hening WA, Purvis C. Epidemiology of restless legs symptoms in adults. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:2137-2141.
25 Pantaleo NP, Hening WA, Allen RP, Earley CJ. Pregnancy accounts for most of the gneder differences in prevalence of familial RLS. Sleep Med 2010;11:310-3.
26 Berger K, Luedemann J, Trenkwalder C, John U, Kessler C. Sex and the risk of restless legs syndrome in the general population. Arch Intern Med 2004;164:196-202.