Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) – Jumpy Feet

Medically reviewed by: Dr Ilbey Ucar – PhD (Psychology)

Last updated date : March 16, 2023

Sadly, having a good night’s sleep is a dream for most people. Usually, it is due to either stress, chronic pain or just having too much going on. Restless legs or jumpy feet are another, often overlooked cause for a poor night’s sleep. We will explore the restless legs causes, signs and treatments below. There are also those whose legs and hands are always tingling, being pulled or jolted whenever they try to sleep. As a result, a good night’s sleep soon becomes a wishful dream. This uncomfortable situation is the Restless Legs Syndrome. This condition is also classified as a sleep disorder since the symptoms worsen when a person tries to rest.

This article covers important information such as restless legs causes, diagnosis and treatment.

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Chapter 1:

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

An extreme reflex to move your legs, especially when you are lying in bed is the standout feature of restless legs syndrome. It is a nervous system disorder. Restless leg sndrome is also classified as a sleep disorder since the symptoms worsen when a person tries to sleep.

People who experience this condition find it hard to stay in one place for a long time. That includes lying down or even sitting. They experience uncomfortable sensations such as tingling, pulling, crawling, or scratching on their legs.

These sensations create almost reflex like twitches. In some cases, these sensations move to the hands, chests, and head too. Moving about tends to stop the unpleasant feeling temporarily. However, this is often short lived.

People with jumpy feet often experience their symptoms in the evenings. It is normal for the symptoms to worsen by night time, depriving most of its victims of sleep. Lack of sleep causes many problems in our day-to-day lives. Restless legs syndrome is a very common condition that can affect anyone in any age range.

However, this is a treatable issue. Treatment is more effective if the condition is treated in its early stages.

Chapter 2:

Types of Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is mainly classified into two types.

Primary Restless Legs Syndrome

This situation is idiopathic. In other words, the cause is unknown. This is also the most common type of RLS. Idiopathic RLS tends to start developing before mid-age. That can be as early as childhood. Since the causes are unknown, the weight is more towards genetics. Also, Primary RLS lasts the whole life of its victim. Symptoms can be treated to reduce the severity.

Secondary Restless Legs Syndrome

An underlying disease causes this condition. Thus, RLS becomes a symptom of a more serious issue.

Secondary restless legs syndrome tends to develop during mid-age, mostly after 45 years old. Genes do not pass it down. The effects and symptoms are sudden. They tend to become severe.

If you have illnesses such as diabetes, kidney issues, iron deficiency, Parkinson’s’Long-term illness of the nervous system that mainly affects movement, arthritis, or pregnancy, you are more prone to become a victim of secondary RLS.

Chapter 3:

Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

couple of friends hugging inside one of their clean home Here is a list of symptoms you may experience if you are suffering from Restless legs syndrome.

  • Feelings of scratching, gnawing, tingling on the legs. May, or may not advance to the hands, chest, or face.
  • The irresistible urge to move due to sensations.
  • Sensations take place on both sides, one side or gradually advances from one side to the other.
  • Beginning of these sensations during or after rest.
  • Sensations are relieved by moving. They come back when movement stops.
  • Symptoms that worsen during the evening and last through the nighttime.
  • Severe twitching during sleep
  • Remission of symptoms after a while of no symptoms.
  • Periodic limb movement

Symptoms can be very mild to a point that it is hard for doctors to diagnose the issue. It is important to list down the symptoms you are facing in order to make the process easier.

Chapter 4:

Restless Legs Syndrome in Children

One of the most unfortunate aspects of RLS is that it can affect children with the same severity it has on adults. The difference is, they may have a harder time communicating what they are experiencing. This confusion and discomfort of your kids may keep you in the dark too.

The symptoms will be the same discomfort adults experience. However, children are more likely to experience these symptoms during the daytime. The inability to sleep, not wanting to stay still, followed by emotions such as aggression. These symptoms can often be misunderstood as the kid being hyperactive or nosy.

Restless legs syndrome mostly messes with sleep. Being sleepless can affect everything else that happens in the day. The inability to focus, learn, being nosy, aggressive, more likely to have a breakdown, and annoyingly active are some of the changes that can happen in your child’s life. It is important to understand that these changes have a more significant impact as the child grows. It can alter their personality and health.

If your child is experiencing discomfort with bedtime, wanting to get up and scratch their legs so often, it is important that they receive medical attention. However, this situation in kids is still a growing problem. Thus, prevention is possible with the right care at the right time.

Chapter 5:

What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

There is no known cause for restless legs syndrome. In other words, more cases are idiopathic. Unless an underlying issue causing RSL is identified, what causes this condition is mostly under the radar.

However, the closest conclusion is the imbalance of brain chemical dopamine” Neurotransmitter or organic brain chemical involved in movement, emotions & other functions” that controls muscle movement. RLS also has a genetic component and can be found running in families. Also, there is evidence that a low level of iron may also cause this issue.

Restless Legs Syndrome can also be tied to long-term diseases such as arthritis, Parkinson’s, iron deficiency, diabetes, kidney failure, etc. Pregnant women may encounter RLS during pregnancy, or it may be worse if they have had it before.

Also, side effects of prescribed drugs/medication can include restless leg syndrome. It is important to be clear of what side effects the prescribed drugs may have on you.

Chapter 6:

When Should You See a Doctor?

People are advised to get medical treatment as soon as they notice symptoms of RLS. Restless Legs Syndrome is a highly treatable issue. Nonetheless, the longer it persists, the severe it gets, and it will also respond less to treatment.

This condition may take a severe toll on your daily life as well as your physical and mental state. The continuous drowsiness, having to pace or move to deal with the pain, and not having enough rest can easily disrupt the quality of life. Thus, when to get medical attention is as soon as you notice symptoms when there is still time to turn things around.

Chapter 7:

Diagnosing RLS

There are no specific tests that can be done to diagnose RSL. Therefore, diagnosis is done based on clinical evaluation. Tests are made to determine any underlying causes. By ruling out one by one, either idiopathic or secondary RSL will be diagnosed. The treatment plan depends on the diagnosis.

There are a few signs that must be present to be diagnosed with Restless Legs Syndrome.

  • The feeling of strange sensations and uncontrollable urge to move
  • Symptoms tend to start in the evening and get worse at night
  • Triggered sensations while resting.
  • Sensations become bearable while moving or being active.

However, even after ticking all these boxes, you may still be put through a physical examination. There is the need to make sure that you are not suffering from any underlying illnesses which may be causing RLS. Also, these examinations may require an overnight examination to watch the severity of RLS during sleep/rest.

Below are a few questions your doctor may ask to get to the bottom of the cause.

  1. Describe what you feel as sensations on your skin.
  2. How long do these sensations last?
  3. For how long have you felt these?
  4. Is there anything that makes these sensations better or worse?
  5. Is there anyone in the family who is currently diagnosed with RLS?
  6. Do you take any medication?
  7. Did you recently get ill?
  8. Do you have any other chronic illnesses?

side note – Chronic illness/pain is a condition that lasts for over six months. By this question, your doctor wants to know whether you have long-lasting illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s, iron deficiency, etc. which can be effectively causing RLS.

Chapter 8:

Treating Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome will require treatment based on what causes it. Mild RSL cases that are not caused by an underlying issue can be corrected with lifestyle changes. Certain lifestyle changes can help an individual with RLS.

Clinical treatment entirely depends on the underlying illness that is causing Restless Legs Syndrome.

Below are a few simple home remedies that can be practiced in order to treat symptoms of RLS.

Adopt Good Sleeping Habits for Better Sleep

couple of friends hugging inside one of their clean home

The biggest challenge concerning restless legs syndrome is the inability to get some rest. Rest is a vital part of anyone’s day-to-day life. Those who find it hard to rest during the daytime look forward to getting home and getting to bed. The deprivation of that much-needed break can be extremely frustrating.

However, there are a few habits you can practice to try and increase the quality of sleep. They are as simple as avoiding caffeine before bed, following a nighttime routine before bed, not going to bed hungry, and maybe relaxing your mind before bed. Meditating or some soothing music before bed can help sleep better. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Also, avoid electronic devices at least two hours before you go to bed.

Avoiding alcohol as well as not smoking also plays a major role in getting good sleep. The hangovers and nausea could keep you up all night. It is important to remember that we should not give in to our difficulties. We should find a way of making our lives better by fighting against them.

Engage in Exercise

Exercise helps RLS symptoms. Most patients with restless legs syndrome have stated that their symptoms got progressively better with the help of exercise. In this context, exercise is gentle activities such as walking or riding a bike. Straining yourself is not recommended. Not only that, exercise helps improve the quality of sleep as well. Thus, staying active is an effective way of dealing with RLS symptoms.

Massage Therapy

This treatment is not popular or backed up by science. However, one of the first instincts of treating muscle pain is massaging the affected area. Regardless of not having scientific support, it has still proven great help against RSL.


Some of the prescription medications will help deal with the symptoms. They are usually the first help offered to moderate symptoms. Most of these will include dopamine to treat the root cause.

Medication can include (not limited to) sleep aids, muscle relaxants, anxiety meds, and anticonvulsants to reduce the feeling of sensations.

However, medication will be unique to each individual and will be based on the cause of their RLS. Thus, please refer yourself to a medical professional before administering any medication/drugs on yourself.

Heat Treatment

This is based on heat compression on your skin for temporary relief of RLS symptoms. This includes steamy baths, or extremely cold baths, and compression against the affected area with cold or hot therapy. In other words, use a heating pad or ice pack on the affected area.

This method may sound faulty or unconvincing. It should. This is not a method that has scientific backup. These methods also can easily cause much more damage than RLS is causing. Make sure not to push yourself too far with this and be careful not to hurt yourself.

Iron Supplements and Iron Filled Food

If your doctor decides that you need more iron in your body and the cause of your RLS, you are one of the luckiest RLS patients. Iron deficiency is easily fixable. That is with the right food and other nutritional ways such as supplements.

Ask your health care provider to recommend a good iron syrup and add the below food to your daily diet.

  • Red meat; pork
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Peas
  • Fruits such as bananas
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Turkey

There are definitely more ways to help an individual with restless legs syndrome. However, the doctor that examines you and recognizes the cause of your discomfort is handling those treatment options..

Chapter 9:

What Are the Risks You Are Taking by Avoiding Treatment?

As mentioned earlier restless legs syndrome can happen due to many reasons. Some of them are underlying severe medical conditions.

By avoiding treatment for yourself, you are at risk of kidney issues, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and other complicated illnesses. There may be no way back once you decide to give in and watch your symptoms progress. Not to mention the toll it will take on your life by continuous sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and no calm. You are also putting your family members at risk since RLS is found to be passed through genetics. Receiving diagnosis and treatment will help them recognize any signs they may have in them.

By avoiding treatment for your child, you are endangering their entire future. What they become in the future depends on their mindset as kids. The constant exhaustion, sleep disturbances are going to affect their personalities and will alter them badly. You are also teaching them that what they are going through is normal. They will never know better and will not seek treatment. Maybe not even when they are adults and when they have the ability to. In addition, not treating these issues before they progress is likely to leave your child with a lifelong uncomfortable condition.

At Epsychonline we have over 10 mental health programs or courses that you can do. They cover a range of topics related to mental and physical health. Our psychologists and psychiatrists have written courses on chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and other health concerns.

"Well written and to the point" George

85 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount