Restless Leg Syndrome (or RLS) is a disorder that affects both adults and children. In adults, RLS is characterized by restlessness in bed with an overwhelming urge to move the legs which can be met by walking about, kicking out, or even hitting the legs.
In children, though, this classic set of findings is rarely found. Instead, children who suffer from RLS typically experience simple restlessness, characterized by kicking, rocking, or tossing and turning excessively during sleep. This lack of sleep may cause children to appear to have conduct problems, including aggression, inattention, hyperactivity, and daytime sleepiness.
RLS is often related to a low level of serum ferritin, a protein that helps store and transfer iron in the body. Why low ferritin or iron stores might affect leg movements at night is not clear, but it may have to do with the crucial role of iron in facilitating brain function.
In some forms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), restlessness at night is also common. Typically, a sleep physician will check ferritin and iron levels in children and then initiate treatment, following the clinical response. For many children, iron therapy improves their sleep and eases many of their symptoms of ADHD.
Learn more about our sleep medicine specialty care. If your child is demonstrating signs of RLS or other sleep disorders, you can call 253-383-5777 to schedule an appointment with a pediatric sleep specialist.