Restless Leg Syndrome Interrupts Sleep for Fibromyalgia Patients

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers find that adults with fibromyalgia are 11 times more likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) compared to individuals without the disease. The findings suggest treatment could help sleep and improve quality of life for adults diagnosed with the condition.

Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington who contributed to the study says, "Sleep disruption is common in fibromyalgia, and often difficult to treat. It is apparent from our study that a substantial portion of sleep disruption in fibromyalgia is due to restless legs syndrome."

The study was led by Dr. Mari Viola-Saltzman of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. The team of scientists studied 172 people with fibromyalgia - 93 percent were female, with an average age of 50. They were compared to 63 healthy individuals with an average age of 41 years.

Sleep Problems more Severe with Fibromyalgia and RLS


Restless legs syndrome is characterized by the urge to move the legs, especially at night. The result is lack of sleep and worsening fatigue that already accompanies fibromyalgia.

The study looked at the prevalence of restless leg syndrome among in 172 people diagnosed with the disease. The researchers used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Insomnia Severity Index and Epworth Sleepiness Scale to evaluate sleep disturbance among participants with RLS.

The authors note the study does not show fibromyalgia causes RLS, but the two diseases share similar sensory pathways that regulate the neurotransmitter dopamine. Exercise improves restless leg syndrome and also improves fibromyalgia. Another overlap could be the use of antidepressants prescribed for fibromyalgia treatment that can induce RLS.

The results show that sleep problems were more severe among fibromyalgia patients who also have Restless Leg Syndrome. The authors suggest clinicians routinely screen fibromyalgia patients for symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome that is treatable and can "potentially improve sleep and quality of life..."

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine