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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)


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Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurologic condition in which a person has an overwhelming urge to move their legs when they are at rest. The urge to move the legs is usually, but not always, accompanied by unpleasant sensations. RLS symptoms typically occur during inactivity and can be temporarily relieved by movement or pressure. RLS symptoms are most severe during the evening and nighttime hours, which can profoundly disrupt your sleep and daily life.

A person with RLS experiences unpleasant sensations in the legs, which are described as painful, creeping, crawling, tingling, and pulling. These sensations usually can be felt anywhere in the leg — from the thigh to the ankle — but most often occur in the calf area. RLS can affect one or both legs. For some people, it can also affect the arms. When the sensations occur, people with RLS have an irresistible urge to move the affected limb. Some patients, however, have no definite sensation, except for the need to move. Sleep problems are common with RLS because of the difficulty it causes while getting to sleep.

RLS affects approximately 10 percent of adults in the United States. More than 80 percent of people with RLS also suffer from a condition known as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). PLMD is a condition that causes involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that repeatedly occur throughout the night and disrupt your sleep.

In addition to poor sleep quality and short periods of sleep at night, research has shown that people with RLS who don’t receive proper treatment generally experience a reduced quality of life. The sleep medicine experts at the University of Miami Health System are experienced in helping those with RLS sleep easier and better.


Physical Examination Your sleep medicine specialist will perform a comprehensive physical exam – including gathering a detailed health history – to diagnose your RLS.

Blood Tests Your specialist may recommend you undergo blood tests, to rule out other conditions that can cause symptoms that are similar to RLS.

Sleep Study An adult or pediatric sleep study (also called polysomnography) is performed in our sleep clinic. While you sleep, we collect information such as breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, brain wave activity, muscle tone, heart rhythm, and eye movements. This information is captured using small, painless electrodes attached to your body and elastic bands around your chest and abdomen.

Because we’re open 24/7, we offer a variety of studies including:

  • Maintenance wakefulness test (MWT): measures how alert you are during the day
  • Multiple latency sleep test (MSLT): a test that checks your daytime sleepiness by monitoring how quickly you fall asleep in a quiet, daytime environment
  • Round-the-clock, all-night continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): a breathing machine that constantly pushes air through the nose, or nose and mouth, to keep the airways open while you sleep


Medicines Your sleep medicine specialist may recommend a prescription medicine to treat the symptoms of RLS, so you can rest better at night.

Using Warm or Cool Packs Applying a warm compress or a cold pack – or alternating between the two – may help reduce the troublesome symptoms in your legs.

Improve Sleep Habits Being mindful of and working to improve your sleep habits can sometimes help reduce the symptoms of RLS. Good sleep habits include:

  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoiding or limiting daytime naps
  • Getting enough physical activity each day
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
  • Not eating within a few hours of bedtime
  • Relaxing bedtime ritual, including a warm bath, reading, or listening to soft music

Why Choose UHealth?

Regional leaders in sleep medicine and sleep surgery. As a fully accredited comprehensive sleep center, our program meets and exceeds the rigorous standards set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This designation recognizes our facility, services, and providers for the highest commitment to safety and quality care.

Multispecialty care customized for your good health and overall wellness. Depending on your condition, your team can include ear, nose, and throat doctors (ENT), pulmonologists (lung specialists), neurologists, psychiatrists, and weight management specialists with special expertise in sleep disorders. You receive the best care possible when we’re all working together for you.

Sleep studies offered 24/7 in a state-of-the-art sleep center. You can rest assured that you receive the most advanced care available. Sleep studies and tests are conducted in a modern, comfortable center — including the latest technology and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.

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