Restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition in which one’s legs feel uncomfortable or jittery when lying down, is a frustrating problem that can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. And it’s a condition that’s not limited to adults.

“Children and adolescents can suffer from RLS, sometimes severely,” says Dr. Dan Picchietti, a pediatric neurologist. In fact, research shows that restless legs syndrome affects 2% to 3% of children and adolescents.

It’s not only sleep quality that’s at stake for children with RLS. “Sleep, learning, and emotions are affected in moderate-to-severe pediatric RLS,” says Picchietti.

Talk to your child’s doctor about RLS if your child:

• Frequently jerks his or her legs while sleeping.
• Regularly has trouble sleeping at night because he or she feels restless.
• Complains about leg discomfort—perhaps calling it “tingly”, “jumpy”, or “like bugs crawling”—without an obvious cause.
• Claims to “have to” get up to move or kick his or her legs after going to bed at night.
• Has trouble sleeping and has a parent or sibling with RLS.

Fortunately, there are treatment options for RLS in children. Regular exercise, avoiding caffeine, and other lifestyle choices may improve symptoms of RLS. Research also suggests that certain medications or supplements may help. Talk to your child’s doctor about the best ways to manage RLS for your child.

Visit the RLS Foundation’s patient website.

Picchietti MA, Picchietti, DL. Advances in pediatric restless legs syndrome: Iron, genetics, diagnosis and treatment. Sleep Medicine. 2010;11:643.

Yilmaz K, et al. Prevalence and correlates of restless legs syndrome in adolescents. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 2011;53:40

A new booklet sponsored by biopharmaceutical company UCB has been launched for people diagnosed with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS ). The Resource Guide for People with RLS is designed to help patients understand their illness, track their symptoms and work with their doctors to reduce the impact of their RLS on their daily activities. The publication is part of a sponsored initiative from UCB to raise awareness and understanding about RLS amongst healthcare professionals and patients.