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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can you have restless legs syndrome whilst asleep?

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  • Janice Bartley

    Massage Therapist, Western Herbal Medicine Practitioner

    Janice Bartley is a university qualified Medical Herbalist who fosters an evidence-based integrative approach to healthcare. Integrative healthcare focuses on the complexities of each individual’s … View Profile

    In short, yes, you can have restless legs syndrome (RLS) while asleep. In fact most people don’t recognise the symptoms of RLS until they are unable to go to sleep for tossing and turning, or until their partners inform them that they moved around all night in their sleep.
     
    RLS is a harmless condition that causes an irritating sensation of uneasiness, tiredness or itching deep within the muscles of the leg, most commonly in the lower limb. This discomfort may be accompanied by twitching or, less frequently by pain.
     
    Walking or moving the legs provides relief; there is no other well recognised medical cure however I have found in my own practice that magnesium supplementation can help. If RLS is preventing you from getting good quality sleep you should discuss the option of supplementation with your pharmacist, naturopath or GP.
     
    Look for reasons in your diet and lifestyle that may be causing this restlessness in your muscles. Are you under a lot of stress? Do you eat a lot of processed food? Do you drink a lot of coffee or alcohol? RLS cannot harm you, but if it is preventing you from sleeping well the condition warrants further attention.

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    The Sleep Health Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of ‘valuing sleep’ as part of a healthy lifestyle alongside regular exercise, a … View Profile

    Yes, you can have restless legs symptoms during sleep. However, most people with RLS notice symptoms coming on in the evening before going to bed, or whilst sitting still. RLS is the symptom of a feeling of the need to move the legs, or unusual sensations in the legs, usually improved by movement, walking or rubbing. These symptoms can continue on even after going to sleep and cause sleep, particularly in the first part of the night, to be disturbed. Milder cases of RLS will respond to ensuring iron levels are not low, and for more severe cases there are effective medications available that reduce the intensity of the symptoms. 
     
    Severe RLS that disturbs sleep has been shown to be associated with high blood pressure, so people with significant RLS symptoms should discuss them with their doctor. 
     
    Somewhat different to RLS is another condition, periodic limb movements during sleep. These are movements that occur during the night, that the sleeper may not be aware of, but a partner may notice. These are very common, occurring in up to 30% of people at the age of 60. They usually don't cause sleep disruption and don't require treatment. 
     
    For more information on RLS click here

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