Restless legs syndrome

Willis-Ekbom disease, Ekboms syndrome, Wittmaack-Ekbom syndrome, RLS, R.L.S.

What is restless legs syndrome (RLS)?

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system and is characterised by an overwhelming irresistible urge to move the legs.

What causes RLS?

Restless legs syndrome can be caused by reduced levels of dopamine, which is a chemical that is involved in controlling muscle movement.

It can also be caused by underlying health conditions such as iron deficiency anaemia, which is known as secondary restless legs syndrome.

In these cases it can be treated by regulating the dopamine and iron in the body.

However, for the majority of cases of restless legs syndrome there is no obvious cause, and this is known as primary restless legs syndrome.

If the symptoms are not severe it can usually be treated by making lifestyle changes such as incorporating good sleeping habits into a person’s routine, quitting smoking and regular exercise.

What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?

The main symptom of restless legs syndrome is an overwhelming irresistible urge to move the legs which gets worse when a person is inactive and in the evening/night, and gets better when a person is active.

Other symptoms can include:

  • An uncomfortable sensation in the feet, calves and thighs
  • Involuntary jerking of the legs and arms during sleep which are known as periodic limb movements (PLMs).

Are you affected by restless legs syndrome?

If you’re affected by restless legs syndrome (RLS), The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help on all aspects of living with restless legs syndrome (RLS), emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities to people with restless legs syndrome (RLS) from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Looking to talk to someone?

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Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone with restless legs syndrome

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone with RLS? It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including restless legs syndrome, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

The Brain Charity's library

The Brain Charity’s library has a range of resources on restless legs syndrome and on many other disability-related issues.

Support groups

Restless Legs Syndrome: RLS UK

A Facebook group run by the charity RLS UK that provides knowledge and advice on the condition and also gives an opportunity for those affected to communicate.


Health Unlocked Restless Legs Syndrome Forum

An online forum where those with restless legs syndrome can communicate and share their experiences.


Support groups at The Brain Charity

Are you interested in setting up a restless legs syndrome support group, or do you already run one? Email to let us know.

Alternatively, you can check out our list of related support groups here.

Other charities


RLS-UK provides help and support for those with restless legs syndrome by sharing information and advice and running online support groups.