Restless leg syndrome

What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is restless leg syndrome (RLS)?

Some mums-to-be experience this very frustrating syndrome that gives you episodes of having an uncontrollable urge to move your legs about. It can occur at any time but is more common at night, and may cause you to become very tired through loss of sleep. It's a bit like a reflex, in that you can't control the urge to fidget, but moving your legs doesn't bring relief for long either – a bit like having an itch you can't locate. It's not understood what causes RLS, but it has been linked with low levels of iron in the blood or an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine.

Around one in five expectant mums suffer with RLS, usually in the final trimester of pregnancy, but the good news is that for most women it disappears within a month after the birth. It's not exclusive to pregnancy, though, and if you suffered with RLS before, chances are you'll still get it, but hopefully to a lesser degree, after pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of Restless leg syndrome?

Symptoms are a compelling urge to move the legs which occurs when resting, but there's only temporary relief from the urge when you do so; and sudden leg jerks, especially just as you're falling asleep.

What are the treatments and remedies of Restless leg syndrome?

The treatment of RLS is largely by self-help. You can help to ease or reduce attacks of RLS by:

  • going to bed before you get overtired
  • avoiding drinking caffeinated drinks in the last hour or so before bed
  • having a warm bath and massaging your leg muscles before you go to bed
  • practising a relaxation technique.

If you're found to have low levels of iron in your blood, you may be prescribed iron supplements.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Restless leg syndrome