Are you suffering from restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) affects around 7% of the adult population. It is twice as common in women and can sometimes affect the arms. The most common symptom is an urge to move your legs in a short surge of movement that, while may make the sufferer feel better for a short time, does not remedy the underlying issue. The sufferer may also experience a ‘pins and needles’ feeling in their limb(s) about 15 minutes after they’ve lay down to sleep.

Auckland Sleep can diagnose and treat RLS with a personalized treatment plan that works for the patient. Most issues with sleep are quite complex so in order to develop a fully actionable treatment schedule the first step to developing an effective and personalised treatment plan is to gather information via our Sleep Questionnaire.

How we treat RLS and PLMD

Our multi-disciplined team can diagnose RLS or PLMD and work to uncover any underlying condition at the root of the problem. Whether you require clinical treatment such as medication or simply need to adjust your lifestyle, our team of experts provides ongoing support throughout your journey.

At Auckland Sleep we go beyond managing the symptoms of restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder. Our goal is to address the root cause of your condition to provide long-term relief.

Our approach


What is restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) are similar conditions that exhibit many of the same symptoms. It is probable that if you suffer from one, you will also experience the other. The key variation in these conditions is that RLS occurs while you are awake, while PLMD takes place when you are asleep.

Both conditions can affect your sleep. RLS prevents you from getting to sleep, whereas PLMD results in poor sleep quality and frequent waking during the night. This can cause significant stress, with jobs, relationships, and daily life negatively affected through a lack of sleep.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) symptoms

Restless legs syndrome is a sensory disorder, characterised by an overwhelming desire to move the legs while at rest. This urge to fidget or stretch the legs is often accompanied by unpleasant sensations and pain. It may be triggered by long periods of inactivity such as long flights, car rides, or relaxation.

The symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:

  • Overwhelming urge to move the legs after a period of rest
  • Uncomfortable tingling, crawling, throbbing, itching, or pulling sensation in the legs
  • Relief when moving the legs through jiggling, stretching, or walking
  • Symptoms worsening in the evening
  • Difficulty falling asleep

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) symptoms

Periodic limb movement disorder is a condition where limbs (usually the lower extremities) repeatedly twitch, jerk, or kick during sleep. These repetitive movements occur roughly every 20 to 90 seconds and take place during light, non-REM sleep.

The symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder include:

  • Sudden limb jerking while asleep (reported by bed partner)
  • Frequent awakening
  • Non-restorative sleep causing daytime fatigue and irritability

What causes RLS and PLMD?

The causes of restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder are still unknown. Some scientists theorise an imbalance of dopamine is to blame due to its connection to muscle movement control. While there is no known root cause of these conditions, there are risk factors that make you more susceptible.

RLS and PLMD risk factors

Both conditions increase in likelihood with age. RLS is more common among women. PLMD is not gender-related.

Both RLS and PLMD are often symptoms of other underlying conditions or factors such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney failure
  • Spinal cord conditions
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Anaemia
  • Side effects of medication

Treatment for RLS and PLMD

Medical treatments and medications can be used to treat more severe cases of RLS and PLMD. These include dopamine agonists, anticonvulsant medications, and benzodiazepines.

While there is no ‘cure’ for these conditions, lifestyle adjustments such as limiting alcohol and caffeine and improving diet can significantly alleviate symptoms of RLS and PLMD. Lifestyle changes work because they help to alleviate the common conditions that result in these symptoms.

Due to the numerous triggers of RLS and PLMD, a holistic approach to treatment is the most effective.

Getting a Diagnosis

If you suspect you have RLS or PLMD, you should make an appointment to see a clinician. They can administer a polysomnogram (PSG), an overnight test that monitors sleep and the bioelectrical signals occurring throughout the body. Blood work may also be done to check iron, vitamin B12, thyroid function, and magnesium levels.

Get a diagnosis

If you are worried about your RLS and/or PLMD, make an appointment to see our sleep specialist.

If you want to learn how your RLS and/or PLMD is affecting you and what treatments can help, take our sleep test.

Auckland Sleep provides a multi-faceted approach to treating sleep disorders. Our goal is to provide the best possible sleep treatments, accessible to everyone in the community.