Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)/Periodic Limb Movement

Restless legs are often described in different ways by different patients. Usually however, it is some form of uncomfortable sensation that is only relieved by movement. It may affect any limb (including the arms), but is most often seen in the legs, hence the name. Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is a related condition, whereby patients have frequent leg movements at night that affect the quality of their sleep. RLS/PLMD is one of the differential causes of un-refreshing restless sleep, and poor daytime energy.

Common causes of RLS/PLMD may include:

  • Low iron levels
  • Over-active thyroid
  • Poor kidney function
  • Medication side effects (in particular, antidepressants)
  • Lifestyle factors (excessive alcohol, caffeine, smoking, stress)
  • Idiopathic (no known cause)

It is important to optimise lifestyle factors prior to embarking upon specific medication treatment. Cutting down on caffeine, alcohol and stress, and light exercise or muscle stretching/massage can all assist. Some people find benefit from a trial of magnesium, however, there is no strong medical evidence to support this. If conservative measures fail, then further assessment with a sleep physician may be warranted.