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J Clin Sleep Med. 2012 Apr 15;8(2):119-24. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.1756.

Incidence of restless legs syndrome and its correlates.

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  • 1Southern Arizona VA HealthCare System, 3601 S 6th Ave, Tucson, Arizona 85723, USA.



Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common sensorimotor disorder whose incidence is not known. The aim of the study was to determine the incidence and correlates of RLS in a population-based sample.


We obtained data from the Tucson Cohort of the Sleep Heart Health Study, a prospective multicenter study. This cohort included 535 participants aged ≥ 40 years, who answered questions regarding RLS on the 2002 and 2006 sleep surveys. For this study, RLS was defined as the presence of all 4 International RLS Study Group criteria, with symptoms occurring ≥ 5 days/month and associated with at least moderate distress.


Mean age of the predominantly Caucasian (90.8%) participants on the 2002 survey was 59.8 ± 9.7 years; 52.2% were women. RLS prevalence was 4.1% in 2002 and 7.7% in 2006. The yearly incidence of RLS was 1.7% (6.6% over 4 years). Multivariate analyses demonstrated that estrogen use (OR = 2.5, 95% CI: 1.17-5.10) and self-reported obstructive lung disease (OR = 2.8, 95% CI: 1.37-5.83) were independent risk factors predicting incident RLS. Incident RLS was associated with higher prevalence of insomnia (26.5% vs. 7.6%, p = 0.001), increased sleepiness (38.2% vs. 22%, p = 0.036); and higher sleeping pill use in 2006 (23.5% vs. 9.7%, p = 0.019).


The incidence of RLS in this population sample was 1.7% per year. Use of estrogen and history of obstructive lung disease were associated with a significantly higher incidence of RLS. RLS, in turn, was associated with insomnia and increased sleepiness.


COPD; Restless Legs Syndrome; estrogen; incidence; obstructive airway disease

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