Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

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Restless leg syndrome often causes sleep problems in adults, but it can affect children too. The symptoms can be slightly trickier to spot in younger children as they are easy to confuse with growing pains. However, the condition can be diagnosed by a doctor and treated just as successfully as other sleep disorders in children.

restless leg syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a movement disorder that can affect both adults and children. The condition seems to run in some families and like other sleep disorders in children it can result in problems such as drowsiness, lack of focus, hyperactivity as well as difficulty getting to sleep. The reason for these sleep problems is that restless leg syndrome usually happens at night. If your child is affected, he or she may complain of discomfort or pins and needles in the legs. Your child may move around a lot or get out of bed to walk around. Moving will ease the discomfort temporarily, but it will come back when they settle back into bed.

Growing Pains vs. Restless Legs

One reason why it can be harder to recognise restless leg syndrome in children than in adults is that it is easy to confuse with the common aches and pains of childhood. Many children experience growing pains at bedtime, so this is often what parents assume is wrong when children complain about leg discomfort at night. The difference is that the discomfort caused by restless leg syndrome will go away when your child moves.

If you suspect that your child might have restless leg syndrome, you should consult a doctor. The effects of restless legs and other sleep disorders in children can be serious as drowsiness and lack of concentration can cause behavioural problems and difficulties with schoolwork. The doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis and provide treatment to help your child to sleep more easily.

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