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Updated: Feb 9

Sleeping problems are sadly quite common, with about 70 million people in the United States dealing with some type of sleep disorder. Problems getting proper rest can lead to chronic illnesses, injuries, lack of work productivity, mental health issues, and poor quality of life.

One of the most common types of sleep disorder is restless leg syndrome (RLS), which affects up to 4 percent of children and 10 percent of adults.

While this sleeping condition can lead to many a night struggling to get rest, there is help available to treat it. To better understand RLS, let’s examine what it is, what commonly causes it, and what we can do to treat it.

Residents of the Glendale, Arizona area looking for relief from sleeping conditions like RLS can get help from Dr. Sarah Patel and the skilled medical team at Sonoran Sleep Center. Our physician-owned practice is dedicated to providing comprehensive diagnosis and care in a comforting and welcoming environment to help you get better.


This disorder, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, creates an intense and often irresistible urge to move your legs (and in some cases, other parts of your body). Other symptoms include sensations of pulling, creeping, throbbing, itching, aching, crawling, or burning. This frequently happens while sitting for long periods of time or when lying in bed, typically during evening or nighttime hours.

People dealing with this will often want to walk it off and shake their arms and legs to relieve the sensations. While children and adults deal with this sleep disorder, the risks of having it increases with age, and it is more common in women than men.


While research indicates that the illness is connected with an imbalance of dopamine (a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that plays a role in memory, movement, motivation, mood, and attention span), there are several risk factors that can lead to this condition. These include:

  • Iron deficiency

  • Uremia

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Depression

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Kidney disease

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Diabetes

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Pregnancy

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Dialysis

Genetic factors also play a part in getting RLS, as over 90 percent of patients dealing with it have a first-degree relative who has it as well. People with a genetic disposition for RLS often get the illness before they turn 45.

Medications such as antidepressants, anti-nausea drugs, and allergy drugs can also contribute to getting RLS, and caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can worsen the condition.


Treating the underlying conditions contributing to RLS can often help relieve symptoms, but if there are no associated conditions, lifestyle changes and medications can be used to treat it.

Lifestyle changes include reducing alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, getting regular exercise, improving your sleeping habits, reducing stress, and applying compresses to your legs or rubbing them to reduce discomfort.

Medications can be used to target different aspects of the condition, like rotigotine (Neupro®) or pramipexole (Mirapex®) to increase dopamine levels, gabapentin (Neurontin®, Gralise®) or pregabalin (Lyrica®) to treat calcium channels, and muscle relaxants. Opioids can be used, but only in severe cases and in lower doses to avoid addiction.

RLS is not a serious condition, but anything that affects your sleep will affect how you function during the day. So if you’re experiencing the symptoms of this condition and need treatment, make an appointment with Dr. Patel and Sonoran Sleep Center today to get help.

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