Restless Legs Syndrome: Symptoms

The symptoms of restless legs syndrome occur most often at night when you are sitting or lying down to rest. It is an uncomfortable feeling in the lower legs and sometimes in the arms. These feelings have been described as "creeping," "crawling," or "aching." Children may describe symptoms thought to be "growing pains." Moving the legs or walking relieves these feelings. However, they quickly recur when leg motion stops. The symptoms can make it hard for a person to fall asleep and cause frequent awakenings during the night, after which it can be hard to return to sleep because of the discomfort in the legs. People with RLS may also be sleepy during the day. For some people, the symptoms gradually worsen over time.

Periodic limb movement disorder is a related disorder, in which people move their toes, feet, ankles, or legs during sleep. They may be unaware of these movements during sleep, but a sleep partner may notice them. While most people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder, the two disorders are not the same, and most people with periodic limb movement disorder do not have RLS.

These symptoms of RLS or periodic limb movements could also indicate other sleep disorders and should be mentioned to your healthcare provider:

  • Nighttime leg discomfort or movement of your arms or legs while sleeping
  • Excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day
  • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, waking frequently during the night, waking too early, not being able to fall back asleep, or waking unrefreshed
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
  • Irritability or depression