Root Causes and Remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome is believed to impact an estimated 5-10% of adults and 2-4% of children. Symptoms include disturbing sensations in the legs (or arms) which result in an irresistible urge to move, kick, rub, or walk around – providing temporary relief. These feelings get worse at night and during periods of inactivity, and some sufferers develop Periodic Limb Movement, which triggers sudden jerking movements several times a minute during sleep. Because of its impact on sleep, RLS is considered one of the most common sleep/movement disorders, but it is also one of the most elusive. Many of those afflicted struggle to describe the creeping sensations they experience, and even avoid seeking treatment for fear of not being taken seriously. 

However, there is hope for relief. With an increase in focused research over the last 20 years, we know more about RLS than ever. Sometimes experienced on its own (Primary RLS) and sometimes as a result of another condition or illness (Secondary RLS), there are a number of causes for the condition. While there is not yet a cure for RLS, there are a variety of treatments which have brought relief to those afflicted, many finding themselves in remission for years. 

Suspected Root Causes of Primary RLS

While much is still unknown about what causes Restless Leg Syndrome, researchers have indicated that the causes are both environmental and genetic. The consistent factors related to primary RLS are iron deficiency (specifically its concentration in the brain), a malfunction of dopamine production, release, and impact, and subtle variations in several genes. Up to 92% of patients in treatment for RLS have a first-degree relative who also suffers from the disorder. These patients tend to experience the onset of RLS earlier than those without a known hereditary link, first experiencing symptoms before the age of 45. 

Secondary RLS Risk Factors

Restless Leg Syndrome can also develop as a result of other illnesses, conditions, lifestyles, and medications. Chronic diseases like Parkinson’s, renal disease, and peripheral neuropathy can trigger RLS symptoms. RLS has also been linked to pregnancy, generally appearing in the third trimester and resolving soon after delivery. Those who’ve suffered damage to their spinal cord have an increased risk of developing RLS as well. People at risk for RLS can have symptoms triggered by using stimulants like coffee and nicotine. Medications can also trigger RLS – some examples being the synthetic thyroid medication levothyroxine, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and SSRIs. 

Common Remedies and Treatments

If your RLS symptoms are mild and you’re seeking to resolve them on your own, some common home treatments include:

  • Getting regular exercise 
  • Cutting out tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Developing and maintaining a healthy, consistent sleep schedule
  • Taking iron and vitamin D supplements
  • Using foot wraps
  • Trying Pneumatic Compression

There are also a number of pharmaceutical and therapeutic treatments that sleep specialists and physicians can provide to those who are in need of intervention for the relief of their RLS symptoms. 

Contact Whitney Sleep Center 

Everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. As we learn more about RLS, we have a greater opportunity to bring relief to those suffering. At Whitney Sleep Center, our staff of physicians, technicians and specialists have decades of accumulated experience in sleep medicine and work collectively to identify and resolve sleep disorders, including Restless Leg Syndrome. 

Suffering from a sleep disorder is both physically and emotionally challenging. Our family-run business is dedicated to approaching each patient with the empathy they deserve, prioritizing your concerns, answering your questions, and assisting you in improving your sleep, and overall health, through our treatments. Reach out to us now to schedule a sleep study or to inquire about our treatments and services. Learn more at