Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurologic disorder marked by an uncomfortable feeling in the legs combined with an overwhelming urge to move the legs, which temporarily relieves the feeling. The condition affects 2 to 3 percent of children in the U.S. and may be genetic.
The symptoms of RLS are usually worse at night when a child is lying in bed. Children often have difficulty falling asleep and are restless in bed with complaints of leg discomfort. Some children may report these symptoms as “spiders crawling” or an urge to shake the legs or walk around to relieve the discomfort.
Other symptoms of RLS include:
RLS can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. A child may resist normal bedtime and refuse to go to sleep until late at night. Because the child is not sleeping well, there may also be behavioral changes that include:
Symptoms may also be caused by periods of inactivity such as long car trips, sitting in a movie theater, long-distance flights or immobilization in a cast. Parents may mistake these symptoms for “growing pains” or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
To diagnose RLS, a pediatric neurologist or sleep medicine specialist can help evaluate your child’s symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment. The four basic diagnostic criteria are:
Although there is no cure for RLS, symptoms can be managed with techniques that include:
Use the information below to learn more about RLS.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.