It’s estimated that restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects more than one in 10 American adults every year (around 12 million people).
RLS is a condition characterized by uncomfortable feelings in your legs, giving you a strong urge to move them in order to find relief. Because symptoms tend to get worse overnight, RLS is associated with a higher risk for insomnia and daytime fatigue, plus increased use of sleep-aid medications, alcohol and caffeine.
Middle-aged women, including those going through or past menopause, tend to experience RLS more than any other population. Most people describe the symptoms of restless leg syndrome — which can include experiencing jittery sensations, tingling, burning and aching in one or both legs — as more annoying than actually painful. Some people equate the sensations associated with RLS as “the feeling of bugs crawling up your leg.” In other words, although it’s not very dangerous long term, RLS causes some downright unpleasant side effects.
The desire to quickly get RLS sensations to stop makes people twitch, jiggle or move their legs throughout the night, leading to poor sleep. The worst part is that moving the legs usually doesn’t help RLS symptoms stay away for long — they usually return pretty quickly, and the cycle continues.
What causes RLS, and what can you do about it? Experts believe that RLS tends to run in families, is tied to poor diet and increased stress, and is likely made worse by a lifestyle that raises inflammation and the risk for nutrient deficiencies. The good news is that restless leg syndrome isn’t likely to cause long-term problems, although dealing with it can still be very tough. Natural ways to treat restless leg syndrome include improving your diet, exercising, stretching and setting up a nightly routine to relax before bedtime.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome is defined as a common neurological sensorimotor disorder characterized by an urge to move the legs during periods of rest or inactivity. The International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group considers there to be four mandatory clinical features to establish a diagnosis of RLS:
•The urge to move the legs, usually due to uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs
•Symptoms that begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity (including when sleeping, lying or sitting)
•Symptoms that are partially or totally relieved by movement
•Symptoms that become worse in the evening or nighttime
According to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, RLS is believed to be highly under-diagnosed, and some research shows it might affect up to 25 percent of all older adults in some populations. In the general public, around 11 percent of adults deal with RLS regularly, 10 percent report experiencing at least weekly symptoms and 3 percent say RLS greatly decreases their quality of life.
What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
Who gets restless leg syndrome, and what are the common risk factors? Although children or teens can sometimes develop restless leg syndrome during development, puberty or growth spurts, it’s most common in middle-aged to older adults. Common factors contributing to RLS development include: