Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Periodic Limb Movements – Symptoms & Risks


Normally, you are unaware of the movements. This can make it very hard for you to know if you have periodic limb movements. Someone who sleeps in the same bed with you would be more likely to notice the movements. You might have PLMD if:
  • Someone else told you that your body makes unusual, repetitive movements while you sleep
  • These movements tend to occur in your lower legs
  • You feel like you are never well-rested, even after a full night of sleep
  • You are often very tired during the day
It is also important to know if there is something else that is causing your sleep problems. They may be a result of one of the following:
  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse

Risk Factors

PLMS occur in both children and adults. The chance of having it increases with age, making it very common in the elderly. It occurs in up to 34% of people over 60 years old. Studies have not yet shown how common it is in other age groups. No difference has been noticed in the rate of males and females who have it. The family pattern has not been studied in detail.

PLMS can be influenced and caused by a number of factors. They are commonly found in people who have one of three other sleep disorders:
  1. Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
  2. REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD)
  3. Narcolepsy
Low brain iron may play a role in making PLMS worse.

High rates of PLMS have been found in some people with:
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Multiple system atrophy (a rare neurological disorder)
  • Sleep related eating disorder (SRED)
The following medications are thought to cause PLMS or make them worse:
  • Some antidepressants
  • Lithium
  • Dopamine-receptor antagonists (e.g., some anti-nausea medications)
Data is not certain about a link between PLMS and the following:
  • Kidney disease
  • Parkinson disease
  • ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
  • Pregnancy
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
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