Restless Leg Syndrome and Sleep Apnea

I have both RLS and sleep apnea. I have looked on line to see if there is a correlation between the two and can’t find anything. They are both different issues as far a what causes them but both are serious sleep problems. I just wonder how many people actually have both. Sleep apnea is often not diagnosed early on and RLS is often not diagnosed at all. It strikes me that a person who actually has both might be diagnosed with one and not the other. If this was the case, patients will continue to have serious sleep issues while the doctor thinks the problem is solved.

I’m sure there are other illnesses that might do the same thing. I guess my actual concern is that people keep looking when treatments or medications don’t seem to help.

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I have both! Mixed apnea diagnosed first. As I began to research and learn more about sleep disorders, I realized I also had RLS. I never thought to discuss the constant urge to move my legs, get up and move around or the creepy crawly feelings I have on both arms and legs. I actually had to bring this up to my sleep doctor, who after answering some of his questions, I was officially diagnosed.
RLS is NOT diagnosed in the sleep lab, as it is a disorder of the sensory neurons of the brain and occurs during wakefulness…KEEPING us from falling asleep easily! It is typically diagnosed during history and physical, so if you have the symptoms, please bring this up with your primary care or ask for a referral to a sleep doctor.

While there are meds available for treatment, I chose not to medicate as I found them to make me drowsy during the day. A side effect not everyone has thank goodness. Also note, that while it is called Restless Legs Syndrome, it is not always just the legs!

Kathy P, I do not think my RLS is related to my apnea. I have never seen any evidence of one causing the other. I will be very interested in learning more from others. Thanks for the interesting post.

Hi Kathy;
I recently found out I had a serious iron store deficiency which made my RLS much worse.

Have you had your iron levels checked regarding your RLS? Were they low?
I believe its actually the ferritin levels that are checked.

Got both caught at once by using an overnight sleep study at a Georgetown Tx sleep clinic two years ago.

How are you treating your RLS? Meds?

I have both too. I’ve done sleep studies in the early 2000’s and found I have both. I used a cpap and meds for my RLS. I didnt use my cpap machine long back then. Flash forward ten years, I’m falling asleep during the day and back to becoming the insomiac narcolepsy while kicking the covers and animals off the bed.

I’ve started using a cpap machine a week ago. My aha’s per hour are increasing every night. Last night’s was 7.6 events per hour. My blankets were kicked off the bed as well. My dreams are vivid. I’m still just as tired and falling asleep during the day.

Hi Nancy,

I’m a sleep technologist and would like to help steer you in the right direction. I also have a few questions.

First of all, understand the difference between restless leg syndrome (RLS), and periodic limb movements PLM’s)
RLS occurs while you’re awake and is characterized by achy tingly, got-to-move-my-legs sensations. This can be diagnosed while you’re awake during a visit with your Doctor.
PLM’s, on the other hand, occur while you’re sleeping, and are diagnosed during a sleep study.

Be aware that sometimes people kick their legs in their sleep, not because of true PLM’s, but because they have sleep apnea, and are struggling to breathe.

So, if it’s been awhile since your last sleep study, and your cpap equipment is older than 5 yrs., plus you’re having symptoms, it would be a good idea to talk with your Dr. about another sleep study


1-how long since your last sleep study, and how many have you had?
2-Why did you stop using your cpap back then?
3-How old is your cpap equipment?
4-Have you been diagnosed with Narcolepsy?
5-Are you still taking meds for RLS?

Thanks in advance for your response.

Than you so much for answering me. I had 2 sleep studies around 2006/07. One was at a center for sleep studies (2nd) and the other (1st) was in the ENT office overnight. The ENT diagnosed my twitchy legs as RLS. he indicated the both the OSA and RLS was causing my lack of sleep and keeping me from REM.
I wanted to get an sleep study to bring my cpap up to date. The insurance company declined even though my benefit covers it. Instead the insurance company said the would authorize an autopap. But that didn’t occur either. I have a new cpap with the old 2007 compression of 8cmh2o.
I’ve use my new resmed for 2 weeks. I’m still falling asleep while driving. I’m still waking up in a fog. I have to go to sleep early in the evening. I changed from a nose pillow to a mask. My events per hour are increasing from approx. 2.1 to 7.1.
Answer to Questions:1. 2 Studies. I even went to a sleep doctor for a consult and apparently he felt I didn’t knock his socks off with my OSA.
2. My cpap back in 2007 was noisey and I couldn’t get use to the mask.
3. I have a new resmed.
4. I long suspected I have narcolepsy. I had sleep issues since the early 90s.
5. I am not taking meds at present for RLS. My ENT said to use the cpap and see if this helps.

Nancy Harp

Thanks for your response. As I previously mentioned, there’s a difference between RLS and Periodic Limb Movement, or PLM’s
RLS is diagnosed in the Dr.s office, because it occurs while you’re awake. It’s called restless legs because you have a strong urge to move your legs due to discomfort.
PLM’s, on the other hand, are involuntary movements that happen when you’re asleep. These are diagnosed during a sleep study.

RLS can be treated with medication, as can PLM’s. However, PLM’s can also be caused by sleep apnea. If you’re struggling to breathe, your legs will quite naturally twitch and kick. In that case, eliminating the apnea, will clear up the PLM’s.

I said all that to say that it sounds like you have PLM’s NOT RLS; although people can have both. That’s important, because each could require a different form of treatment. And it sounds like your Dr. is working on that.

Also, do you have any heart problems, or are you diabetic? Long story short, the stress that sleep apnea puts on your body causes these, and more.

I would definitely talk with your Dr., and voice your concerns about the health risks of under treated sleep apnea. As for your suspicions of Narcolepsy, see the following link:

A sleep study followed by what’s called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). This is a series of naps to determine how fast you fall asleep and how soon you enter REM…

It just might be time for another sleep study. And maybe effectively treating your OSA will clear everything up.



I too have bothe sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. I also have been having cramps in my legs and feet at night, which makes me get up as fast as I can, which isn’t easy with the BiPap hooked up. I just wonder what is going on?

I have Sleep Apnea. My legs bother me too. Even my arms brother me from my right to my left but mostly the right. My knee bothers me and it gets worse at night. They did an Xray and found nothing with my knee.

I have has times when im sleeping and my body twitches or jumps.