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HealthInfo Canterbury

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a problem where you feel unpleasant movements and feelings in your legs, usually when you are resting or not moving around. Often people feel these movement and unpleasant feelings when they are trying to go to sleep.

RLS is much more common in women than men, and it often gets worse as you get older. Although not a worrying medical condition, it can cause you to have trouble getting to sleep, and this can affect the quality of your sleep. This condition can run in some families.


If you often feel very sleepy during the day, especially if you have a job as a driver, or operating machinery or aircraft, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.

Symptoms of RLS

Feeling an urge to move your legs and sometimes other body parts, and at the same time getting uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations in your legs.

Getting unpleasant sensations in your legs that:

A similar disorder is paradoxical limb movements of sleep (PLMS), which is when your legs and arms move uncontrollably in your sleep. This is usually picked up by your bed partner and may cause you to have a disturbed sleep.

What can you do about RLS?

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Sleep Unit, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed June 2016. Last updated January 2019.

Page reference: 46286

Review key: HIRLS-56982