Restless Legs Syndrome (Willis-Ekbom Disease) and Periodic Limb Movements

Richard P. Allen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) also known as the Willis-Ekbom Disease (WED) is the second or third most common sleep disorder. It is characterized by an urge to move the legs (focal akathisia), engendered by rest relieved by movement, and occurring mostly in the evening or night. It has a wide range of severity ranging from some symptoms during a year for about 7% to very disturbing symptoms occurring more than weekly for about 2%-4% of Americans and Europeans. It has a well-established biological basis involving abnormal iron metabolism, and it is associated with allelic variations on four different genes. Moderate to severe WED produces a profound chronic insomnia with nightly sleep times reduced to 5 to 5.5 hours. It also impairs daytime functioning and may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Mild WED can usually be managed with behavioral and lifestyle treatments. Moderate to severe WED usually requires adding pharmacological management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Sleep and Sleep Disorders
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940837
ISBN (Print)019537620X, 9780195376203
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Akathisia
  • Circadian
  • Dopamine
  • Genetics
  • Iron
  • Periodic leg movements
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleep loss
  • Urge to move

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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