Notice: Users may be experiencing issues with displaying some pages on stanfordhealthcare.org. We are working closely with our technical teams to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS)?
The main symptom of RLS is a strong urge to move because of uncomfortable and sometimes painful sensations. The feelings usually affect the legs. But they can also affect the arms, torso, or a phantom limb (the part of a limb that has been amputated). Some people describe the sensations as aching, creeping, crawling, or prickling. Symptoms usually start about 15 minutes after you lie down to sleep or to relax. They can also occur when you haven't moved for long periods, such as when riding in a car or airplane. If you have symptoms a lot, it can lead to sleep loss and fatigue. And that can make it hard to do your daily activities.
After they are asleep, most people with RLS also have involuntary or jerking leg movements called periodic limb movements. These movements can interrupt your sleep, and make you more tired. Periodic limb movements may also occur during the day. But they're harder to notice then, and most people move around after their legs start to bother them.
RLS and periodic limb movements also often disturb the sleep of a bed partner. This can cause fatigue for both people and can strain the relationship.
Symptoms may start when you are infant or at any time during your life. At first, your symptoms may be mild and occur only once in awhile. But symptoms usually get worse with age. After age 50, many people have daily symptoms and suffer from significant sleep loss. Severe insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and lack of social activity can affect your quality of life.
RLS may start or become worse during pregnancy, especially after week 20.