Restless Legs Syndrome and Restlessness: A Bad Combination

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is common in Parkinson’s disease (PD). So, too, is restlessness. However, the two symptoms are not the same. When you experience both, and add discomfort to the equation, you have a very uncomfortable person dealing with PD.

I can relate so well.

I have walked the floor many nights trying to get my legs to stop twitching. Once my restless legs begin their midnight dance, there is little else that will calm them down. So, I walk around my living room, sometimes singing softly or praying.

Restlessness and RLS can keep you awake and fidgety, but they don’t affect you in the same way. Restlessness creates anxiousness, and vice versa. It can affect anyone, not just those who are already struggling with Parkinson’s.

Another lesser-known symptom accompanies Parkinson’s: being uncomfortable. I am not referring to a feeling of awkwardness but rather a state of being.

It’s when you’re unable to find a comfortable chair to sit in and then can’t get into a restful position in that chair. The same goes for sleeping. Your bed may be the one Goldilocks would have chosen, but you can’t seem to find that sweet spot for yourself.

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My husband has told me that sometimes I look like a puppy dog circling its bed in an attempt to find the most comfortable position. Sometimes I feel like a puppy in that respect! Just when I have lain down and reached the elusive “comfortable” spot of sleep, I think I need to visit the bathroom again. Upon returning, the comfort game begins again, which I usually lose.

What worsens my discomfort? Too much sugar or caffeine close to bedtime is an example. This happened the other night. 

I had a large cup of Diet Coke for lunch that I sipped on the rest of the day. I hadn’t had Diet Coke in what seemed like forever, and that one drink reduced my usual nine hours of sleep to a few more than two. Sugar has been known to keep me awake all night. Having Parkinson’s disease, you try everything you can to ensure the best possible night’s sleep — or you pay for it the next day.

I have noticed that when I am on my computer just before going to bed, it takes me longer to fall asleep. My mind keeps buzzing. So, because I must charge my deep brain stimulator battery each night, I have started reading during that time. Reading tends to quiet my mind and gets me ready to fall asleep sooner and more easily. Going to bed at a regular bedtime also seems to help.

Several things can hinder our attempts to sleep well. We can change some of these things. If you’re having a tough time getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor about it and try some of my tips. It’s worth a shot.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Lou Hevly avatar

Lou Hevly

Hi Sherri,

You probably already know this, but Mirapexin at 0,26mg (pramipexole) before bed has really made a difference for my RLS.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Hi Lou - thanks for the comment. Actually, i take the same exact thing and ten minutes after climbing into bed i know if i’ve Missed by nighttime dosage! Thanks for aiding my forgetfulness and bringing that up! Have a great week!

Alan Tobey avatar

Alan Tobey

I agree on the benefit of Mirapex to reduce or eliminate RLS.

"I have noticed that when I am on my computer just before going to bed, it takes me longer to fall asleep. My mind keeps buzzing." It may not be your conscious mind but another part of your less-conscious awareness. The bright blue-spectrum light from a typical monitor acts as a sort of anti-melatonin that can keep you from falling asleep. Advice that works: Turn the monitor brightness way down, and if possible change the color temperature to a warmer value. If you have an Apple iMac or laptop or iPad, the "night shift" function can do that for you automatically.

Even better: read a paper book under a not-bright warm lamp (not fluorescent).

Happy dreams!

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Thanks for the great info, Alan!

joe avatar


My simple remedy to restless leg- my left leg is to take less Medopar (levodopa+Benserazide 250 mg)and stop taking Comtan -Entacapone 200mg altogether.
I was taking 3/4 OF A TABLET OF madopar ,then my left leg became restlesss.5 times a day. Now im taking half a tablet 7 times a day and my left legstopped being restless.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Thanks, Joe!

Gary Golding avatar

Gary Golding

My restless legs started before my PD diagnosis. I gave up coffee and other caffeine drinks altogether (October 4 2006) and the restless legs stopped. My wife was very pleased. The problem returned in a different form in 2012. As I drift off to sleep my arm tremor stops but just as I fall asleep one of my legs shakes and wakes me up again. Fortunately it is not every night. The smallest stimulus eg air blowing on my feet can set it off. The worst case occurred the night after I had a wart burned off my heal. Any aches or pains seems to make it worse. I purchased a foot massage machine which helps. Pramipexole helps but so does paracetamol(acetominophen). Mindefulness meditation also helps. Lately I have started counting to see how long between shakes. That seems to take the intensity off the shaking.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Gary - thanks for sharing your experience. This is a crazy disease!

Liz avatar


My RLS is much better since I went on Rytary, an extended release levodopa. I used gabapentin for while, also, at bedtime. It's frustrating when I can't get comfortable to sleep and I can't sit comfortably to read either.

Paula avatar


Restless legs--booooo! Can't sit or lie down comfortably late in day & evening, but also can't stand up for very long due to leg & knee pain. So I'm constantly up & down (slowly & painfully) like a Jack-in-the-Box. My only relief is that I usually get a good night's sleep but only if I take 1 Sinemet plus 1 Requip. Also, usually no RLS early in the day, but still painful legs & joints.

Patricia Bruemmer avatar

Patricia Bruemmer

Been to ER and a new doctor. Neither mentioned RLS. Was just uprooted from my home; life is a mess. now the legs are causing extreme discomfort. One trip to ER resulted in nothing; second to new doctor - same results. Leg cramps wake me up - feeling like the "meat" of my legs is being torn off the bones. Then RLS literally popped into my head this morning. Thus, being on this site. Any suggestions? I'm tired, scared, confused. I live in San Diego, CA.

dinah brooks avatar

dinah brooks

leg cramps are so very painful, it's hard to describe.
the only thing to relieve them is to put your weight on your foot, starting with the toes and working towards the heel, until you are flat on the whole foot. you won't want to do this! it's counter intuitive , but make yourself do it. Always works for me .... so far!

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Dinah - thanks for commenting and the advice to share - you’re right - they are VEry painful!!!


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