Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome

Children with restless legs have an uncomfortable feeling in their legs when trying to fall asleep. If your child has restless legs, find out how you can manage this.

Sleeping sound in primary school children - Restless Legs Syndrome

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Children with restless legs have an uncomfortable feeling in their legs when trying to fall asleep. These feelings usually happen at the start of the night, whereas 'growing pains' occur during the night. Children with restless legs may:

  • describe the feeling as a 'creepy/crawly' or 'pulling' feeling
  • move around a lot in bed to try to stop the uncomfortable feeling
  • walk or pace around at bedtime
  • be unable to sit for a long time and
  • be tired or cranky the next day due to lack of sleep

What causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

The cause of restless legs is not known but it can run in families. It can also occur in children who have low iron levels (anaemia), and is more common in children who have some illnesses like diabetes and kidney disease.

Is there a test for Restless Legs Syndrome?

No. There is not a single test for Restless Legs Syndrome but sometimes tests are needed to rule out other reasons for sleeping problems.

How can you manage Restless Legs Syndrome?

Change the bedtime routine so that your child does not get into bed until they are ready to fall asleep. This means all bedtime routines (for example, stories) should happen with your child out of the bed.

  • avoid caffeine - caffeine is in tea, coffee, coke, chocolate, and some medications
  • reduce the discomfort with massage, and cold and hot packs
  • treat iron deficiency or low folic acid - your doctor can advise on how best to do this
  • exercising several hours before bedtime can also be helpful - avoid exercise just before bed

Thumbnail of 'Restlress Legs Syndrome' handoutStarship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand thank the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, for making this content available to parents and families.

© Copyright – Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2014. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part of this content may be reproduced by a process, electronic or otherwise, without the specific written permission of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

 

This page last reviewed 06 July 2017.
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