Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Periodic Limb Movements – Diagnosis & Treatment


For most people, the movements do not disturb their sleep in a severe way. They do not need to seek medical help. In other cases, severe movements can greatly disturb your sleep and life. In this case, you will want to see a sleep specialist. You will need someone with the proper training and experience to help treat it. 

You should complete a sleep diary for two weeks. This will give the doctor clues as to what might be causing your problems. You can also rate your sleep with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This will help show how your sleep is affecting your daily life. The doctor will need to know your complete medical history. Be sure to inform him of any past or present drug and medication use. Also tell him if you or a relative have ever had a sleep disorder. 

Your doctor will likely have you do an overnight sleep study. This is called a polysomnogram. The polysomnogram charts your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It also records how your arms and legs move. Not only will it keep track of your movements, it will also help detect any other sleep disorder that you may have.


When it is necessary to treat PLMS, the same drugs that are used for restless legs syndrome also work for PLMS. These include drugs that replace a chemical in the brain called dopamine. These drugs are also used to treat Parkinson’s disease. However, if you have PLMS, you are not at an increased risk of getting Parkinson’s disease. Other medications used include the following:
  • Sleeping tablets
  • Some anti-seizure medications
  • Narcotic pain killers