Sufferers of Restless Legs Syndrome experience a wide range of uncomfortable sensations during inactivity, usually in the legs, but sometimes in the arms and trunk, making it difficult for them to relax and to fall asleep. These sensations are variously described as, "pulling, drawing, crawling, wormy, boring, tingling, pins and needles, prickly..." (source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and_medical/disorders/restless_doc.htm), and are accompanied by an overwhelming urge to move the affected body part. There is no known cure, and symptoms often worsen over time. Pain killers occasionally offer some relief.

Restless Legs Syndrome is also known as 'Jimmy Legs', under which name it was once featured in an episode of Seinfeld — Kramer's girlfriend suffered from it, and it was later revealed that George Costanza's mother was also a sufferer, although in actual fact, as George's father explained, she had "the Jimmy Arms.... like you w'n't beleef!".

I had this condition for a while. As mofaha notes, the syndrome involves uncomfortable muscular sensations coupled with an overwhelming desire to move one's legs; I generally described it by saying that my legs wanted to get up and go running even though the rest of me really wanted to go to sleep. Obviously, there are far worse diseases out there, but the syndrome does make life uncomfortable for the sufferer (and for anyone with whom he is sharing a bed).

Although the causes of restless-legs syndrome are unclear, there are a few treatments. Painkillers do work, especially if they contain a mild sleeping drug (like Tylenol PM). Doctors will sometimes prescribe benzodiazepines such as Restoril for more serious cases. Before resorting to drugs, though (especially habit-forming drugs whose effects decline over time) it's good to try some non-pharmacological approaches. Stretches, relaxation exercises, and massage can provide some relief; these helped me a little, but not much. It's often easier and more effective to eliminate some factors that may worsen the condition. For example, my syndrome went away entirely after I drastically reduced my intake of caffeine. These days, I don't consume any caffeinated drink within 12 hours of bedtime; I only have a problem if I forget and have some chocolate or a Coke at dinner.

("Go without caffeine?" you say. "You must be crazy! Wasn't it hard to give it up?") Yeah, but I can actually sleep through the night now, which means that I don't need caffeine to stay awake during the day. A blessing for the doctor who suggested that to me (and a pox on the doctor who recommended that I take a Valium every night for the rest of my life).

He has trouble sleeping. He's always had these tingles in his legs, he tells me. They keep him awake until he passes out from exhaustion.

We are sitting on the couch one evening when they start. He is obviously uncomfortable, shifting around and bouncing his legs. "Is it your legs?" I ask quietly. He sighs. Yes, of course.

I thought it was all in his head, an excuse to stay up late. I told him to stop drinking so much caffeine, to watch his diet and not sleep so late in the day. I wasn't really helping.

Until the day I asked his mother about it. Turns out his grandmother also had RLS and that, like him, it caused her many sleepless nights. There is no cure; it grows worse with age. So I start the search. And here's what I learned:

Restless Leg(s) Syndrome, also known as nocturnal myoclonus, is a sleep-related syndrome. Discovered in the 1940s by a Swedish neurologist, the disorder affects about 10% of us and tends to run in families. Doctors aren't sure the cause of RLS; prevention and treatment of symptoms are the best they can do for now.

What they do know is that it flares up during periods of inactivity (like when you're watching TV or falling asleep), and it is associated with peripheral nerve diseases, anemia, and ADHD. Contrary to the name, RLS is not only a disorder of the legs. It can also occur in the feet, hands, and arms.

It feels like tingles, or a stirring discomfort that leaves you restless. It keeps you awake and that's the real pickle, because sleeplessness and stress make it worse. So here you are, trying to fall asleep but you start to worry that your legs will tingle and you won't get any sleep. Sure enough, the sensation of worms crawling in your legs starts. Now you really begin to worry. You stay awake for hours past bedtime, searching for relief and stressing over your condition. After hours of stress, discomfort and frustration, you pass out. The cycle continues. So what're we to do?

While RLS is not particularly painful, many sufferers self-medicate with pain relievers, alcohol, and other drugs. I can't begin to tell you how many things are wrong with that plan. Try regular exercise, yoga, meditation, and other physical activity that promotes restful sleep and stress reduction. As leighton mentions above, limiting your caffeine intake may help as well. The RLS Foundation recommends experimenting with your sleep cycle to find a more suitable bedtime. Some people seem to respond better to rising and sleeping at later hours. Acupuncture, warm baths, aromatherapy and massage may also help relieve symptoms.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of RLS, please see a physician to rule out any other medical problems.

Information from The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation (http://www.rls.org), WebMD and Yahoo! Health.

Restless Legs Syndrome runs in my family. It's in our genes. There are some other problems we have too (hearing loss is the big one) but those are separate stories for another time.

Let me tell you a few things about RLS that they don't always mention on the medical databases. I'll try to avoid overlapping previous writeups, though. First off, if you don't have it in your genes, RLS is often a symptom of something else, so if you've suddenly developed it out of nowhere- you should probably get a check up. Hey, can't hurt to be cautious.

It's a pain to get officially diagnosed with RLS. (no pun intended) It generally involves spending a night or two (at least one place required a week) in a sleep institute, and more often that not your insurance won't pay for it because this is a minor condition with no special treatment anyway. Most people in my family (me included) have not been officially diagnosed because it's just a bother without any real rewards- except the occassional "oh, that's interesting" that people who look at your records will say. Keep in mind, though, most people who have it don't know it, because they have it so mildly. (I, for one, have many physical oddities about me- had this not run in my family so much, I'd probably never realized it was RLS.)

RLS is most unfun for sleeping partners. Not just because you might have gotten into the habit of getting up and down from bed a lot, but because a lot of RLS sufferers kick or move a lot in their sleep. At least in my family they do. I have to pick up the sheets from the floor nearly every morning, because I kicked them off the bed.

RLS is generally worse when your hormones are very active. This kicked in for me around age 10 or so. I'd get major pains in my ankle and shin, to the point where I couldn't sit still or sleep for hours. My grandmother called these "growing pains" and remarked how everyone in the family had gotten them at some point, which eventually led to someone doing internet research, and- erm, I digress. As with most pain that you suffer from RLS, it's impossible to pin down the exact spot that hurts (as opposed to getting a cut on your foot, you can feel right where it is even if you can't see it.) Personally, this stopped around my 14th year of life. Women in the family say it got less severe when their periods stopped.

Painkillers can sorta work. You can get used to taking them, or just sick of them eventually. I don't suggest you bother, as there are better things, unless you've got the condition for a short-term period (meaning it's a symptom of something else). I still have used them on occassion when it was truly bad, though.

The best remedy for RLS, in my experience, is daily exercise. Walk briskly, and stretch those leg muscles! My family used to go out for a walk every evening.

This condition is real, but it's very much influenced by your state of mind. It is possible to ignore it when it is mild, for example. If you're in a restful state, it tends to get worse. If you're excited, you probably won't feel it much. Learning to meditate or concentrate well is a way to some relief, because you learn to focus your mind elsewhere.

Anyway, if you've got this condition, I hope you are able to learn to cope. It sounds like some other noders out there have learned more or less the same things I have, but completely separately, so there certainly is hope.

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