Condition: Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement

Restless leg syndrome (RSL) and periodic limb movement disturbance (PLMD) share some symptoms but are two separate conditions with different characterisations and causes.

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Overview of restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement

Restless leg syndrome (RSL) affects around 10% of the population and is characterised by an irresistible urge to move their legs. This feels like an abnormal sensation in the leg muscles. During sleep RSL is commonly associated with the sleep disorder periodic limb movement disturbance (PLMD). Around 80-90% of people with RSL have PLMD.

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is a rare sleep disorder. This affects between 4-11% of the population. A patient suffering from PLMD in their sleep might experience legs and in some cases the arms repetitively twitch or jerk every 50-90 seconds for up to an hour.

PLMD may either be primary (appears on its own) or secondary (due to a contributing medical condition) disorder. Research still doesn’t know the cause of primary PLMD. For secondary PLMD common medical issues associated with the condition include diabetes, iron deficiency, caffeine use, ADHD, withdrawals, medication side effects, and other sleep disorders, such restless leg syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy, REM sleep behaviour disorder, or sleep apnoea.

While in most cases PLMD is not considered medically serious, the movements have been associated as an indicator for more serious medical conditions.

Tests for RSL and PLMD

For patients or partners of patients concerned that they suffer from RSL or PLMD, OneWelbeck offers a full specialist evaluation through our Sleep Studies. The OneWelbeck RSL or PLMD pathway will include an at-home sleep study to analyse breathing and sleep behaviour which can decipher whether they are suffering from RSL or PLMD.

To book an at-home sleep study, please visit our Sleep Centre page.

A patient can book an appointment by calling 020 3653 2006 or emailing

Treatments for RSL and PLMD

Upon completing the OneWelbeck Sleep study if there is a positive diagnostic for RSL or PLMD there are a variety of treatments that will be advised by the sleep consultant based on the feedback from the diagnostics.

Any additional medical issues that are identified in the sleep study tests will be internally referred to the appropriate sub-specialty.

Video: What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Professor Michael Polkey, Sleep Medicine Consultant at OneWelbeck Lung Health gives an overview of restless leg syndrome, and the common symptoms

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Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Specialists