Home » Disorders » Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Syndrome (RLS)Restless legs syndrome is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by a desire to move the legs or arms, usually associated with uncomfortable sensations typically described as creeping, crawling, tingling, burning or itching. Symptoms are worse when the individual is at rest, and frequent movements of the legs occur in an effort to relieve the uncomfortable sensations. For most people with RLS, symptoms are worse in the evening, but not always; some individuals only have the symptoms in the evening or at night.

The symptoms of RLS can delay going to sleep, and it can awaken a person sound asleep. RLS can also impact the quality of a person’s sleep. Because of these sleep problems, a person may have daytime sleepiness.

The prevalence of RLS ranges from 2 to 7 percent in the population, with about 4.5 percent of the population experiencing RLS about once a week.

Specific Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

1. An urge to move the legs, usually accompanied by or in response to uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs, characterized by all of the following:

  • The urge to move the legs begins or worsens during periods of rest of inactivity.
  • The urge to move the legs is partially or totally relieved by movement.
  • The urge to move the legs is worse in the evening or at night than during the day, or occurs only in the evening or at night.

2. The above symptoms occur at least 3 times/week, and have persisted for at least 3 months.

3. The above symptoms are accompanied by significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, educational, academic, behavioral or other important areas of functioning.

4. The above symptoms are not attributable to another mental disorder or medical condition (such as leg cramps, arthritis, leg edema, etc.), and are not better explained by a behavioral condition (e.g., habitual foot tapping).

5. The symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a drug or abuse of medication (e.g., akathisia).


New to the DSM-5. Code: 333.94 (G25.81)

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2020). Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.