August 2020 | Reviewed by: Reeba Mathew, MD and Imran Shaikh, MD
What is restless leg syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome is a neurological sleep disorder that causes you to have uncomfortable feelings and the urge to move your legs. Restless legs syndrome makes it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. The symptoms are usually worse in the evening and at night. The sensation is difficult for some people to describe. It has been described as a crawling or creeping sensation. You may lie down and begin to feel itching inside your legs. If you move your legs or get up and walk around, these symptoms may go away. The discomfort may return when you try again to go to sleep.
In some restless legs syndrome cases, you may have trouble sitting still for long periods. Long car rides or airplane travel may be difficult.
Many people wait years to seek treatment because they do not view it as a serious concern. If left untreated, you may notice that your symptoms become more frequent and severe.
Restless legs syndrome may cause you to get fewer hours of sleep each night. Many people with severe cases get less than five hours of sleep per night. Milder cases do not disturb your sleep as much, though the sleep may be of poorer quality.
The accumulated sleep loss from restless legs syndrome can make you excessively sleepy during the daytime, cause you to be irritable and make concentration difficult. This may have a major impact on your professional and personal life. People with restless legs syndrome are more likely to have depression or anxiety.
Restless legs syndrome is usually manageable through medication and lifestyle changes.
Most people develop restless legs syndrome after age 45 although it can develop at any age. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop the disorder. If you have a family member with restless legs syndrome, you are more likely to develop the symptoms before you are 45 years old. More than half of people with restless legs syndrome have a pattern of it in their family, as the risk is about three to six times greater.