Wrestling with Restless Legs Syndrome

Science grapples to understand and treat this severe cause of insomnia.

John Kruse MD, PhD
Wise & Well

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Godisable Jacob / Pexels

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) may sound like a silly or trivial condition, but severe cases can disrupt sleep so much that people become completely disabled. RLS is rather common, with 5% to 15% of individuals likely to have it, although experts think that many cases go undiagnosed, confused with other sleep problems or even ADHD.

Several medications approved for treating RLS activate dopamine receptors and effectively suppress symptoms in the short term. Many medical websites simplify that the condition arises from a dopamine deficiency, making these drugs sound like an ideal fit. But the available evidence suggests a more complicated situation, with at least initially, too much dopamine being the problem.

Stepping into a deeper exploration of dopamine and RLS reveals why these drugs may actually worsen the condition in the long term, and why some individuals suffer unusual obsessive-compulsive side effects, like excessive gambling or sexual behavior.

What is restless leg syndrome?

Individual with restless leg syndrome have:

  • a strong urge to move their legs
  • unpleasant sensations when their…

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John Kruse MD, PhD
Wise & Well

Psychiatrist, neuroscientist, father of twins, marathon runner, in Hawaii. 100+ ADHD & mental health videos https://www.youtube.com/@dr.johnkruse6708