Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Consult your doctor for more information regarding the treatment of RLS, and contact us to discuss options at INTEGRIS Sleep Disorders Center of Oklahoma: 405-636-7700 or Toll-Free 888-53-SLEEP

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that affects the legs and causes an urge to move them. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder.

RSL is a sleep disorder in which a person experiences unpleasant sensations in the legs, which are described as an uncomfortable itchy, “pins and needles,” or crawly feeling in the legs.

These sensations usually occur in the calf area, but may be felt anywhere from the thigh to the ankle. One or both legs may be affected. For some people, the sensations are also felt in the arms. People with RLS have an irresistible urge to move the affected limb when the sensations occur. Some patients, however, have no definite sensation, except for the need to move.

Sleep problems are commonly found in conjunction with RLS because of the difficulty it causes in getting to sleep. Severe daytime fatigue can be a significant problem for patients.

Approximately one in ten adult Americans suffers from Restless Legs Syndrome. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for restless legs syndrome, but there are several medication-based and non-drug treatments.



Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, medical director of the INTEGRIS Sleep Center, breaks down the myth of restless leg syndrome and explains that it’s more common than people may realize.


The cause of RLS is still unknown. Some cases are associated with nerve damage in the legs due to diabetes, kidney problems, or alcoholism. Some people report a family history. 

Unpleasant sensations in the limbs are the primary symptom of RLS, which have been described as:

  • Creeping
  • Crawling
  • Tingling
  • Pulling
  • Painful

These sensations occur when the patient lies down or sits for a prolonged period. The patient will likely feel:

  • The need to move the legs for temporary relief of symptoms by stretching or bending, rubbing the legs, tossing and turning in bed or getting up and pacing.
  • A definite worsening of the discomfort when lying down, especially when trying to fall asleep at night, or during other forms of inactivity, including just sitting.
  • A tendency to be most uncomfortable late in the day and at night.

Our sleep disorder specialists at INTEGRIS Sleep Centers of Oklahoma can diagnose RLS based on your symptoms, a complete medical history, and a physical examination. Tests, such as laboratory tests or a sleep study, may be performed.

RLS can be treated by caring for and relieving symptoms. Moving the legs or arms may provide a temporary break. Sometimes symptoms can be controlled by finding and treating an associated medical condition, such as peripheral neuropathy or diabetes.

Treatment options for Restless Legs Syndrome may include:

  • Treating underlying chronic conditions
  • Changing sleep habits
  • Eliminating activities that worsen symptoms
  • Eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Regular, moderate exercise, and maintaining a balanced diet

Your physician may prescribe or administer the following medications to treat Restless Legs Syndrome:

    • Dopaminergic agents (drugs that increase dopamine), which are often used to treat Parkinson's disease.
    • Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam and diazepam.
    • Opioids, such as codeine, propoxyphene, or oxycodone.
    • Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin and pregabalin.

Your primary care provider or your sleep disorder specialist at INTEGRIS may customize your treatment based on:

  • Your medical history, age and overall health
  • Extent of the disease and expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Your treatment preference

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Oklahoma's largest hospital network
3300 N.W. Expressway
Oklahoma City, OK 73112 Phone: (405) 951-2277
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