Children's Hospital Colorado
Sleep

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

Parents and caregivers know their kids best. That’s why we put families at the center of every care team.

Best Children's Hospital by U.S. News & World Report Pulmonology 2021-2 Badge

Next Steps

Would you like to learn more about us?
Sleep Program
Ready to schedule an appointment?
Schedule online
Do you have questions about your child’s condition?
Call

What are restless leg syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD)?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes a strong urge to move the legs. This urge to move may be accompanied by other uncomfortable sensations felt inside the legs that are difficult for children to describe. The uncomfortable sensation and urge to move are made worse by rest or lying down and are temporarily relieved by walking or moving the legs.

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is periodic episodes of repetitive limb movements that occur during sleep. Periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) are brief jerks of the foot or leg, typically every 20 to 40 seconds. They can be identified during a sleep study known as polysomnography. PLMD is often associated with RLS but can occur by itself.

What causes RLS and PLMD?

In some cases, a gene causes this problem. So, it's common for another family member to have RLS.

An important chemical in the brain that helps control motion called dopamine may be low in children with both RLS and PLMD. Children with early-onset RLS may show evidence of an iron deficiency in the brain. Iron is required for proper dopamine activity in the nervous system.

Who gets RLS and PLMD?

RLS symptoms often begin during childhood or adolescence. About 35% of patients report RLS before age 20, and 10% tell doctors that their symptoms appeared by age 10.

Next steps

Get to know our pediatric experts.

Gwendolyn Kerby, MD

Gwendolyn Kerby, MD

Pulmonology - Pediatric

Oren Kupfer, MD

Oren Kupfer, MD

Pulmonology - Pediatric, Pediatrics

Emily DeBoer, MD

Emily DeBoer, MD

Pulmonology - Pediatric, Pediatrics

Patient ratings and reviews are not available Why?

Trish Eells, CPNP

Trish Eells, CPNP

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner