Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

November 14, 2008

in Movement (PLMD), Sleeping Disorders

I have had a few people email me about this sleeping disorder, so If you are looking for more information about Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) you are in luck and can find it here.


Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is a type of a sleep disorder and is the only movement disorder that occurs only during sleep. It is characterized by cramping or jerking movements of the legs during sleep. The movements can be described as repetitive and rhythmic and may occur every 20-40 seconds.

This type of a sleep disorder can occur at any age and is more common in middle aged and older people.


PLMD has no exact known cause, but it has been linked that the nerves traveling from the brain down to the limbs are having abnormal regulations.

PLMD can also be caused by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, iron deficiency, spinal cord tumor, spinal cord injury, sleep apnea syndrome, narcolepsy, uremia, anemia, and some anti-dopaminergic medications.


People affected by this disorder are not aware of the leg movements. Only their partners may notice it. Most common symptoms that these people may notice are sleeplessness and daytime sleepiness.

Some of the common symptoms are:

* The knee, ankle, and the joints of the big toe bend during the movement
* Slight to strenuous movements- wild kicking and thrashing
* The duration of the movements can last 2 seconds and has an interval of 20-40 seconds


There are no known treatments yet. So management would aim for the relief of the symptoms. Medications that can help alleviate the symptoms are dopaminergic drugs, antiepileptic and anticonvulsant agents, skeletal muscle relaxants, and opioids.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

lilymom24 November 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Is this considered a neurological disorder? I ask because some of the symptoms included rhythmic movements which is commone with seizure type disorders and its mentioned that PLMD is sometimes treated with anticonvulsants. I am guessing PLMD is mostly confined to the legs? Not arms as well? It would be interesting to see what an EEG would show in a person with PLMD.


hoygirl November 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm

My husband has recently started to do this with his legs while he sleeps. It something he has never done before. The only new med he takes is for migranes and depression. He has had back sugery twice and now has nerve damage in his arms. I wonder if that is what is causing this new development. Sometimes he hurts me with his leg movements. Usually it`s just his feet though.


Jen_13_13 December 8, 2008 at 2:52 am

Is this the same as when you’re just starting to fall asleep and your leg or your arm jerks, waking you up? Or is that actually a muscular thing instead of a neurological.

I wonder if this can happen in arms as well? I notice my husband’s arms will jerk and twitch like what you described for the legs…


blazenbaybeejen May 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm

my boyfriend not only moves his feet and legs but also throws his arms hitting the bed about every 30 seconds for the first hour or so of his sleep it seems to hav no affect on him but is causing me to lose much sleep..


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