Are restless legs affecting my sleep?

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Many people find their sleep is disturbed by restless legs. Restless legs are unusual and sometimes unpleasant sensations which cause a strong urge to move your legs.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) can occur at any time but is often worse at night.

A related condition called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) only occurs at night and causes your arms or legs to jerk or twitch.

You should see your doctor if restless legs are affecting your sleep. 

What causes RLS and PLMD?

RLS and PLMD can affect anyone but are quite often linked with long-term conditions. They can also occur as a side-effect of some medications or as a result of not having enough iron or vitamins in your body.

What treatments are there for RLS and PLMD?

Treatment for RLS and PLMD may involve:

  • changing your medications
  • taking iron or vitamin supplements
  • avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol
  • stretching and massaging your leg muscles.

If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may suggest you take a drugs called dopamine agonists, for example ropinirole and pramipexole.

Dopamine agonists increase the levels of a chemical called dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is needed to produce smooth muscle activity and movement and so helps to prevent the involuntary movements that occur in RLS and PLMD.

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