Have you ever experienced that unsettling sensation in your legs as you try to fall asleep at night? You know the feeling—a peculiar, creepy-crawly feeling in your legs that takes hold and keeps you awake. You just can't get an uninterrupted sleep when tossing and turning or involuntarily fidgeting your legs throughout the night.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. For those who feel like our nights resemble a nocturnal marathon of leg twitching, you might be dealing with a condition known as Restless Legs Syndrome.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome, commonly referred to as Restless Legs or RLS, is a neurological disorder characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs, often paired with uncomfortable sensations such as tingling, itching, or a deep, creeping feeling within the legs. These sensations are particularly frustrating because they tend to strike when you are trying to relax, especially in the evening or at bedtime. Dealing with these restless sensations can make getting a good night’s sleep beyond challenging.
The primary symptom of RLS is the compelling urge to move the legs. Characteristics of RLS that individuals may experience include:
- Onset during rest, especially during the evening or when sitting or lying down for a long time, like a flight or car ride
- Relief through movement like stretching, shaking, walking, or pacing
- Aggravation at night
- Nighttime leg twitching (linked to periodic limb movement, which causes the legs to kick or jerk while you sleep)
Individuals define this condition as compelling and unpleasant, with RLS sensations often affecting both legs and occasionally the arms, and are described with terms like crawling, throbbing, pulling, aching, itching, numbness, or electric. RLS symptoms can vary in intensity and may come and go.
The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but an imbalance in the brain chemical dopamine may play a role. Heredity and hormonal changes, particularly during pregnancy, can contribute to RLS. And RLS is more common with age and in women than men. 
How RLS Affects Your Sleep
Restless Legs Syndrome can disrupt the quality of your sleep, causing significant disturbances that result in fragmented rest. More than an inconvenience, the constant urge to move your legs and the accompanying uncomfortable sensations will lead to you repeatedly waking throughout the night. When you are running on limited sleep, the fallout can lead to daytime fatigue, excessive sleepiness, and a general sense of exhaustion that can affect your ability to stay alert and attentive during your waking hours.
The persistent sleep disruptions caused by RLS can have far-reaching consequences on your mental well-being and cognitive function. Irritability and mood swings are common. Concentration becomes a challenge, making it difficult to focus on tasks and engage in activities that demand your brain power. And memory lapses may occur, affecting your ability to recall information or remember key details.
As a result of these sleep-related struggles, productivity levels can decline—both at work and in your daily life. The cumulative effects of chronic sleep disruptions can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, affecting your quality of life. 
How is RLS Diagnosed and Treated
If you have RLS symptoms, it is important to seek help from your healthcare provider to determine a diagnosis. Your doctor will assess your symptoms and may conduct tests to rule out other conditions. There is no definitive test for RLS, so diagnosis relies on a clinical assessment and the exclusion of other conditions.
While RLS has no cure, several treatment options can help manage your symptoms so you can get some decent shuteye. Here are some common strategies and treatments that can make a difference:
- Dietary Changes. Some individuals find relief by adjusting their diet to include food rich in iron, magnesium, and folate. Iron supplements may be recommended if you have an iron deficiency.
- Caffeine and Alcohol Reduction. Reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol consumption, particularly in the evening, can help mitigate RLS symptoms.
- Regular Exercise. Engaging in regular, moderate-intensity exercise during the day can improve RLS symptoms.
- Dopaminergic Medications. These drugs, such as pramipexole or rotigotine, are often first-line treatments for RLS. They increase dopamine levels in the brain, which can alleviate symptoms.
- Alpha-2 Delta Ligands. Medications, like gabapentin, may be prescribed to relieve RLS symptoms by affecting calcium channels in the brain.
- In severe cases, opioids may be considered for short-term symptom relief, but their long-term use is discouraged due to the potential side effects and risks.
Massage. Massage can help ease tension and relax the muscles to reduce the discomfort of RLS.
Compression Devices. Some people with RLS find relief using compression devices or garments that apply gentle pressure to the legs.
Sleep Hygiene. Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleeping environment, can improve sleep quality for individuals with RLS.
Manage Underlying Conditions. If RLS is secondary to another medical condition, such as iron deficiency or diabetes, treating the underlying condition may help alleviate RLS symptoms.
Heat Therapy. Apply heat to your legs with a heating pad or soaking in warm water to help with symptoms by relaxing the leg muscles.
Alternative Therapies. Some individuals explore alternative therapies, like acupuncture, yoga, or meditation, to reduce RLS symptoms, although the effectiveness varies from person to person.
An Adjustable Bed. Innovative solutions, such as the Dawn House bed system, can provide customized comfort and support for individuals with RLS. Elevating your legs in a comfortable position can reduce the intensity of the sensations and urge to move. Adjustable beds offer a range of customizable positions, allowing you to find the best angle for your legs. By relieving pressure and promoting circulation, an adjustable base bed offers elevation to significantly improve your sleep quality when dealing with RLS.
Investing in a Dawn House bed system is an investment in your sleep quality, health, and overall well-being. Find relief for your RLS symptoms to get the restorative sleep you deserve and wake up feeling your best. [1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
- Restless legs syndrome - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic