Restless Legs Syndrome – Your Guide To Good Sleep

Willis-Ekborn disorder or Restless Legs Syndrome is a common condition of the nervous system that causes an unrestrainable urge to move the legs. This discomfort occurs usually after going to bed. Because it interferes with sleep and can lead to insomnia it’s labeled as a sleep disorder.


Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes a free movement of your legs. It’s uncontrollable and arouses an uncomfortable sensation.
In most cases it happens in the evening or nighttime hours when your body is relaxing, sitting or lying down.

This sleep and a neurological sensory disorder nowadays affect between 4 and 29 percent of adults in North America and Western Europe. (1)

Furthermore, between 5 and 15 percent of the total population in the States are currently living with this condition.

This condition affects women and the elderly more often than the rest of the population. On the other hand, this syndrome can begin at any age and it worsens as you age.

As a disorder that disrupts your sleep it directly affects your daily habits and activities.

Restless legs disorder is lifelong, which currently has no exact cure.
However, there are certain ways, in terms of simple self-care steps to make ease of this condition and medications, if necessary.

Restless Legs Syndrome Facts

  • Causes unpleasant sensations in legs
  • Causes irresistible urge to move legs
  • Symptoms are increasing during the night
  • Symptoms are produced within the brain itself
  • Can cause daytime sleepiness
  • Twitching happens every 15-40 seconds during the night

What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

Overall, in most of the RLS cases, there is no obvious link for the syndrome. However, it is known that it runs in families in most of the cases.
On the other hand, neurologists claim that RLS is tightly connected with a chemical called dopamine.

Dopamine is has a significant role in controlling muscle movements and it may be responsible for involuntary leg movements.

In some cases, scientists claim that certain health conditions like kidney failure or iron deficiency anemia. Furthermore, there is a link between RLS and pregnancy, as some can experience symptoms in the last 3 months of their pregnancy.

However, there is no explanation of why there is this connection. On the other hand, what is sure, is that RLS disappears completely once the woman has given birth.

What Triggers Restless Legs Syndrome?

Triggers that awake Restless Legs Syndrome sensations are many and different, as well as describing how they actually feel.

People describe RLS symptoms as highly unpleasant sensations in their feet or legs and it happens to both sides of the body. However, RLS affecting arms is less common.

Most common RLS descriptions are:

  • Pulling
  • Aching
  • Creeing
  • Itching
  • Electric
  • Crawling
  • Throbbing

Overall, these kinds of sensations are difficult to explain. People that have this condition are usually not describing it as a muscle cramp or numbness, but rather like a strong desire to just move their legs.

RLS Triggers List

Although doctors are not sure of RLS origin and what causes it, there are certain triggers that activate pulling feeling in your legs. Knowing your triggers will help you in avoiding them.

Most common triggers are:

  • Sitting Still – Sitting for hours in a movie theater, long car trips, longer flights, or just being stuck in a traffic jam can cause unpleasant twisting. When possible, take small but often breaks and walk it off.
  • Stress – Find ways to reduce tension and anxiety, because RLS symptoms can redouble during moments of stress. Practice deep breathing, yoga or meditation.
  • Lack of Sleep – If you’re not in onward RLS, keep your sleeping schedule tight. Stick to a regular bedtime routine and get plenty of sleep every day.
  • Smoking – This is rare, but if you see that smoking makes your RLS symptoms worse, try to quit. Not only that it can reduce your RLS symptoms, but it can improve your health overall.
  • Alcohol – If your symptoms are worse when consuming alcohol the best solution would be to cut down on it entirely. However, if you really enjoy it, try to drink less of it and skip it before bedtime.
  • Refined sugar People that struggle with RLS for years said that when they cut on sugar symptoms are not so intense. Say no to sweetened drinks and processed foods.
  • Caffeine – Limit yourself from taking caffeine late at night. Do it by limiting the amount of coffee, chocolate, energy waters, sweets drinks like Coke, and switch caffeine tea to decaf.
  • Medication – the number of medications can make your RLS symptoms less comfortable, including beta blockers, antihistamines, anti-nausea drugs, and antidepressants.
    Make sure that you check with your doctor about medicament matching, switching drugs or reducing dosages.

The most important thing is to have your own triggers listed, so if you feel symptoms intensely after drinking the sweet drink, it’s a clear sign that you should reduce it or stop drinking it entirely.

Can Restless Legs Syndrome be Temporary?

Yes. Symptoms are not present and active all the time, but occasionally they disappear entirely for a period of time, and then they come back.

Good to know: Follow up on symptoms will help you to get your RLS to diagnose because there is no single test for diagnosing it.

Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment

If your pain is that big that you can’t handle it, you may use proper medications. Of course, medications won’t be the same for everyone, but might include:

  • Painkillers – the most common painkillers for treating restless legs syndrome are mild opiate-based. Painkillers like ibuprofen, gabapentin, and pregabalin are the most common one and they will ease the symptoms. However, there might be some side effects, like dizziness, headache, and tiredness.
  • Iron – the low iron level can be improved with additional intake of iron. Iron can be taken as a pill on a daily level for a certain period, or as an injection into the bloodstream.
    Alpha 2 agonists – the adrenergic receptor is localized in certain areas of the central nervous system, from brainstem to septum. In cases of primary RLS, treating Alpha 2 agonists is a must
  • If you are more for a natural and non-drug RLS treatments you can try:

    • Frequent and proper leg massages
    • Hot baths and hot tea
    • Heating pads or ice packs
    • Good and regular sleep habits
    • You can also try using vibrating pads
      • As a condition without a cure, it is important to try different therapies and approaches in order to find what helps you the most. Today you can minimize symptoms, control the disorder and even increase the length of periods of peaceful sleep.

        Restless Legs SyndromeTypes

        There are 2 familiar types of RLS, a primary or idiopathic RLS or Secondary.

        Primary Restless Legs Syndrome

        Causes of primary RLS are unknown and this is the most common type with the following characteristics:

        • It may have a genetic background
        • Can start in childhood
        • Usually begins at the age of 40
        • Has a tendency to be lifelong
        • Symptoms are sporadic
          • Secondary Restless Legs Syndrome

            Causes of secondary RLS are unknown and this is the most common type with the following characteristics:

            • Outbreak is sudden
            • Starts around the age of 45
            • Usually, it’s not hereditary
            • Symptoms mostly remain the same
            • Does not tend to be hereditary
            • Co-occurring illnesses
              • Secondary RLS may lead to cardiovascular disease including coronary heart disease or even stroke.

                Downsides of Being a Patient with Restless Legs Syndrome

                • Less sleep
                • Suffering mental slowing
                • Being frequently depressed
                • Walking for hours to suppress the symptoms
                • Missing on dinner parties, social events and sometimes travels
                • Losing a job
                • Overall law quality of life

                This risk is most common in people with severe symptoms of RLS. It is not yet fully understood why this group is more affected, but one of the common beliefs is that the rapid leg movement is associated with an increased heart rate and blood pressure.

                In addition, sleep problems are highly connected to cardiovascular disease.

                To reduce this risk, exercise daily, keep up the healthy weight, quit smoking if you’re a smoker and eat a balanced diet.


                What triggers restless leg syndrome?

                Reasons are many and differentiate from person to person. However, the most common triggers are seen in medicaments, bad eating and working habits, including smoking, refined sugar, alcohol, and stress.

                How do you get rid of restless syndrome fast?

                The best way is to try with home remedies. Try bath and massages, apply warm or cool packs and soak in the warm bath and massage your legs until you relax your muscles.

                Can Restless leg syndrome be cured?

                Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder. However, a healthy lifestyle and medication can help improve your quality of life overall.

                What is the best treatment for restless leg syndrome?

                Your doctor will prescribe the best possible treatment plan for your condition. They often include Dopamine agonists. You shouldn’t take any medicaments by yourself.

                Where can I get more information about RLS?

                A large number of people is dealing with this disorder and hearing their testimonials or educating yourself on the subject is a step closer to making the pain go away. The largest number of current research on the topic is constantly updated on RLS Foundation.