Managing restless leg syndrome in children

October 26, 2020 3 mins read
Managing restless leg syndrome in children

Restless leg syndrome in children can be worrying for you as a parent. This neurological sleep disorder, characterized by a powerful sensation to move the legs, doesn’t have a cure. However, restless leg syndrome (RLS) can be managed so your child can sleep better (and all the benefits that come with good sleep quality).

Find out how RLS can affect sleep in children and which treatments are available to ease their symptoms.

What is restless leg syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome in children is similar to that of adults. Your child will likely complain of a creeping, pins and needles type of powerful sensation that they feel in their legs when they sleep or are lying still. When your child moves or kicks their legs, they relieve the sensation.

Unlike adults, who usually report feeling the tingly sensation at night, your child may struggle with it during the day as well. Your child can also feel anxious about going to sleep at night because of restless leg syndrome, which can disrupt their sleep.

What causes restless leg syndrome in children?

Studies show that often, RLS in children is caused by attention deficit disorder (ADHD). The UK Restless Leg Syndrome Organisation reports that 25% of children who have ADHD also have restless leg syndrome.

In other cases, it is inherited, with a 63% to 92% chance of it being passed down in families where a person has been diagnosed.

How to manage symptoms in children

Creating a sleep environment that is comfortable for your child can ease restless leg syndrome. When it’s time for bed, keep the bedroom clear of all distractions and only for sleeping. Other ways you can manage symptoms are listed below.

  • Avoid caffeine, chocolate and some medications that contain it.
  • Low iron and folic acid levels can make restless leg syndrome in children worse, so ask your doctor to prescribe nutrients to supplement their diet.
  • Pack your child’s diet with fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet can alleviate the symptoms of the disorder.
  • If your child is taking herbal or other medications, aks your GP to review these as some medications can add to the discomfort of restless leg syndrome in children.
  • Massage the limbs to relieve the pain.
  • Doing light stretching before bed and exercising during the day provides relief.

While it’s not easy watching your child deal with restless leg syndrome, with a consistent bedtime routine, healthy diet and limited caffeine intake, they can maintain a healthy sleep pattern. Also discovering how other sleep problems can manifest because of restless leg syndrome will give you a clearer perspective of how to treat those symptoms separately, setting your child on the path to more restful sleep.