Background and purpose: The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of restless legs syndrome (RLS) symptoms in the US adult population and to relate frequency of RLS symptoms to self-reported general health, depressive and anxiety symptoms, daytime sleepiness, and cardiovascular disease.
Patients and methods: Data were obtained from a survey, conducted in 2002, of 2821 participants in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, a prospective community-based epidemiology study. Classification of RLS symptoms was based on the following four symptoms at the 2002 survey: 'repeated urge to move your legs' and 'strange and uncomfortable feelings in the legs', 'when sitting or lying down' which occur at least weekly, 'get better when you get up and start walking' and 'disrupt your sleep'.
Results: Prevalence of RLS symptoms occurring at least weekly was 10.6%, with no statistical difference between males (9.9%) and females (11.2%). Individuals with symptoms of RLS occurring at least weekly were older than those without such symptoms (P<0.02). Those with Daily RLS symptoms had statistically more frequent excessive daytime sleepiness, poorer self-reported general health, an elevation in depressive and anxiety symptoms, and an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease compared to those with no RLS symptoms. All of these associations were stronger in subjects with Daily RLS symptoms than those with RLS symptoms 1-6 times per week.
Conclusions: RLS symptoms are associated with multiple physical and psychological indices of impaired health. Longitudinal studies are required to determine whether RLS symptoms are causally related to excessive daytime sleepiness, poor general health, elevated depression and anxiety symptoms, and cardiovascular disease.