Restless Leg Syndrome and ADHD: Untangling the Connection Between Two Common Conditions

restless leg syndrome and ADHD

Restless leg syndrome and ADHD are two conditions experienced by millions of people across the globe.

Both health conditions can affect a person’s quality of life and make everyday tasks seem like a difficult challenge.

Whether you're dealing with restless leg syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or both, understanding the connection between the two can be helpful in managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

But how are restless leg syndrome and ADHD related?

Does restless leg syndrome occur as a result of ADHD or vice versa? Or maybe they’re not even related at all?

Well, that's what we'll be exploring in this article.

At the end, you should have a better understanding of the connection between restless leg syndrome and ADHD. You'll also learn about the potential treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage both conditions.

So, let’s get started!

Untangling the Connection Between Restless Leg Syndrome and ADHD

Untangling the connection between restless leg syndrome and ADHD begins with understanding each condition on its own. Here's how they differ:

Restless leg syndrome explained

As its name implies, restless legs syndrome (RLS), or Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs.

This periodic limb movement disorder often occurs due to underlying issues that affect the central nervous system, like an iron deficiency, diabetes, and other medical conditions. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include uncomfortable sensations, numbness, or movements during sleep, causing sleep deprivation.

If you're dealing with this condition, you'll likely experience these sensations when resting or sitting for long periods of time. As a result, many people suffering from RLS have trouble getting a good night's rest, which can further exacerbate their symptoms.

ADHD explained

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that affects millions of people across the globe.

It usually presents itself as an inability to focus, restlessness, difficulty paying attention, and impulsivity. It can also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as fidgeting and hyperactivity.

Most people with ADHD have trouble staying organized, following instructions, and managing their time. This can lead to problems in school, work, and relationships, especially if this disorder in adults is left untreated.

While the exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, many experts believe a wide range of factors play a role in its development.

Some of them include genetics, environment, brain structure, and lifestyle factors. As ADHD is often characterized by restlessness and impulsivity, it's no surprise that those with this condition are also more likely to suffer from RLS.

Yes, you read that right. People with ADHD are more likely to suffer from RLS than those without the condition.

Let's take a deep dive into just how it plays a role in causing restless leg syndrome.

How ADHD Leads to Restless Leg Syndrome

So how does ADHD play a role in the development of RLS?

Well, preliminary study have found that those with ADHD often have an overactive central nervous system.

This means they can be more susceptible to restless leg symptoms like restlessness and fidgeting than people without the condition.

This heightened level of activity in the central nervous system could also explain why people with ADHD are more likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome. What's more, those with ADHD are more likely to have an iron deficiency than those without anxiety disorders.

Iron plays a crucial role in keeping your central nervous system functioning properly, so when levels are too low, it can lead to an increased risk of developing RLS.

Dopamine, another powerful neurotransmitter that helps regulate movement, mood, and behavior, can also be in short supply for those with ADHD. With dopamine deficiency, your body has a harder time controlling muscle movement, causing RLS.

These are just a few of the potential explanations for how ADHD can contribute to restless leg syndrome. Whether you're dealing with one or both conditions, taking objective measures to manage your symptoms is important.

Let's take a look at how you can do this.

Treatment Options for Restless Leg Syndrome and ADHD

Taking healthy steps to find relief from RLS and ADHD is essential to getting a good night's rest and living a more productive life.

Here's just how you can find relief from both conditions:


As ADHD is a primary cause of RLS, treating this condition can be the first step to finding relief from restless leg syndrome.

Follow these tips to help manage your symptoms.

Behavioral therapy

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to treat ADHD is through behavioral therapy.

This form of therapy helps patients with ADHD gain control over their behavior and create healthy habits. It can also help individuals learn how to better manage their time and how to deal with challenging situations in a productive way.

Behavioral therapy can be done one-on-one or in a group setting, depending on the individual's needs. If you're looking to try it out, be sure to find a qualified therapist who specializes in ADHD.

Yoga or tai chi


A second way to treat ADHD is to add yoga or tai chi to your daily routine.

Yoga and tai chi have been found to be beneficial for those with ADHD, as both activities help to reduce stress and improve focus.

Not only do they promote mindfulness, but they also help to improve balance, flexibility, and strength. Plus, these forms of exercise can be done in the comfort of your own home or at a local studio. Doing yoga or tai chi for just a few minutes each day can be a great way to help reduce symptoms.

Both can be done in a group setting or at home, depending on what works best for you.

Use ADHD medications

Taking medications can also be beneficial for anyone trying to alleviate ADHD-like symptoms.

Medication helps to reduce the level of activity in the brain and can help to regulate behavior, improve focus, and reduce restlessness. While medication is not a cure for attention deficit disorder, it can provide much-needed relief.

Stimulant medications are the most commonly prescribed type of ADHD medication. They work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, which helps improve focus, concentration, and energy levels. This, in turn, can help reduce restlessness and hyperactivity, which cause a lack of attentiveness.

Non-stimulant medications may also be an option if your health care provider finds them to be more suitable for your condition.

For restless leg syndrome

With a wide range of potential causes besides ADHD, combating restless leg syndrome in adults or kids can be tricky. Fortunately, there are some ways to find relief from this condition.

Some of the best methods include:

Take iron supplements

Iron supplements can be an effective way to help treat RLS.

Recall how low levels of iron can lead to restless leg symptoms?

Well, taking an iron supplement can be a way to help reduce these symptoms.

Iron is an important mineral that helps the body create red blood cells, which in turn carry oxygen throughout the body. Without enough iron, our bodies can't produce enough healthy red blood cells, which can result in fatigue and restlessness.

With supplementation, however, you can help boost your iron levels and reduce core symptoms. Iron supplements come in a variety of forms, including capsules, tablets, and liquid drops. Just ensure you are taking the recommended dosage, as too much iron can result in an overdose.

Get a massage

leg massager for restless leg syndrome

Massage therapy is a great way to find relief from restless leg syndrome.

Massage helps relax your leg muscles, stimulate blood flow, and reduce pain for fewer sleep issues.

When it comes to massage therapy for RLS specifically, deep tissue massage is especially beneficial.

This type of massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, helping to reduce tightness that can lead to involuntary leg movements. Simple ways to get massage therapy include booking an appointment at a spa or doing it yourself with the help of a self-massage tool.

Leg massagers like the Fusion Air C Pro are particularly effective in helping to reduce RLS symptoms, as they simply wrap around your legs for targeted relief. Other effective self-massage tools for restless leg syndrome include foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and massage balls.

Just ensure you use the right amount of pressure to avoid further irritation.

Use hot or cold compresses

Using hot or cold compresses can also be an effective way to help alleviate the core symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Hot and cold therapies are not only a great way to relax, but they also help to improve circulation and reduce inflammation. The application of heat can be helpful in relieving tension, reducing stiffness, and reducing the chances of sleep disruption.

Heat also helps to increase the flow of blood to tense muscles, providing relief from cramps and spasms. Cold therapy can also be beneficial in helping to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area can help soothe and relax tight muscles. For a hot compress, you can use a hot water bottle or even take a warm bath. For a cold compress, an ice pack is best.

Just ensure you don't apply the compress directly to your skin and wrap it in a cloth or towel first for protection.

Stretch regularly

Like the idea of stretching your legs?

Well, it can be an effective way to help reduce the symptoms of RLS.

Stretching helps to improve circulation and reduce muscle tightness, which can help relax your muscles and alleviate daytime symptoms. It's easy to include stretching into your daily routine; just focus on simple exercises that target the legs and feet for the best results.

Some examples include ankle circles, toe stretches, and leg lifts. While any of these exercises can be beneficial for RLS, just ensure you're stretching gently and don't push yourself too hard.

Take dopaminergic drugs

Taking dopaminergic drugs is another way to help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for controlling movement, and it's believed that low levels of this chemical can contribute to RLS.

Dopaminergic function drugs are medications specifically designed to target dopamine in order to increase its levels in the brain, helping to reduce symptoms associated with RLS.

Common types of dopaminergic drugs include pramipexole, ropinirole, and rotigotine. While these dopamine agonists can be effective, there is a risk of side effects, so it's important to follow prescription instructions carefully.

This way, you can ensure you get the best results with minimal risk of any brain-transmitting dopamine medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to common questions we receive about restless leg syndrome and ADHD.

Whether you're dealing with one or both of these conditions, you'll find the answers to your questions here.

Besides ADHD, what other health conditions can cause restless leg syndrome?

While adult ADHD is often linked to restless leg syndrome, other health conditions can also be responsible.

These include diabetes, kidney failure, anemia, and some neurological mood disorders. What's more, certain medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, may also increase the risk of developing RLS.

Other causes include pregnancy, alcohol use disorder, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as iron deficiency or low levels of magnesium or folate. If you're experiencing RLS symptoms and are not sure of the cause, it's best to seek medical advice.

This way, you can pinpoint the underlying cause and receive the appropriate treatment for your individual situation.

Is it safe to treat ADHD and restless leg syndrome simultaneously?

Yes, managing symptoms of both ADHD and restless leg syndrome can be done simultaneously.

It's important to note, however, that certain treatment options will vary and depend on your individual needs and situation.

Take medications, for example, as some may be useful for both conditions while others will only target one. Some may even come with side effects, so it's important to speak to your doctor and find out the best option for you.

Meanwhile, treatment options for restless leg syndrome like massage therapy can be combined with behavioral therapy for ADHD for best results. Yoga or Tai Chi can also be beneficial for both conditions, as can relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.

Whichever treatment option you choose, just ensure it's tailored to your individual needs and circumstances.

Can restless leg syndrome cause ADHD?

While ADHD is known to be a leading cause of restless leg syndrome, it is still uncertain if the opposite holds true.

Known conditions that restless leg syndrome can lead to include sleep disorders and periodic limb movement, both of which can have an impact on ADHD symptoms. However, there is still insufficient evidence to suggest that RLS is a direct cause of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or other mental disorders.

If you're experiencing symptoms of both conditions, it's best to follow any of the treatment options mentioned in this article for recovery. Others, as well as pediatric patients with RLS, should consult with a pediatric sleep specialist.

Can managing ADHD symptoms help stop restless leg syndrome symptoms?

While this is still uncertain, it's possible that managing adult ADHD symptoms may help reduce RLS symptoms—or at least make them more manageable.

ADHD medications and therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help manage hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention—all of which can be related to RLS.

These treatments can also provide emotional regulation, improved sleep quality, and better self-esteem. All of which can potentially help reduce RLS symptoms in patients.

Whatever decision you make, it's important to consider all your options before deciding on an adequate treatment plan. This will ensure you get the most appropriate care and relief for your individual needs.

Are there any lifestyle changes or self-care strategies that can help manage both conditions?

Sure, there are several lifestyle changes and self-care strategies that can help manage both conditions.

Exercising regularly is one helpful strategy, as physical activity releases endorphins that can improve mood and provide a calming effect. Also, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help balance out any deficiencies or imbalances in the body.

It's important to get enough sleep and avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can worsen depressive symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and mindfulness meditation may also be beneficial for managing both conditions.

Lastly, talk to your doctor about medications that can help manage both conditions or supplement your lifestyle changes.


Restless leg syndrome and ADHD are both complex conditions that can be incredibly difficult to manage.

Clinical studies have shown that both conditions occur as a result of chemical imbalances in the body, and while ADHD can lead to RLS, there is still insufficient evidence to suggest that RLS can lead to ADHD.

Common symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.

While symptoms of RLS can include an irresistible urge to move the legs, often accompanied by an unpleasant sensation that may lead to sleep disturbance, Whether you're dealing with restless leg syndrome or ADHD, finding relief is crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Proven treatment options for ADHD patients include cognitive behavior therapy and medications, while restless leg syndrome can be managed through iron therapy supplements, massage therapy, dopaminergic drugs, and more.

Whatever treatment plan you choose, just ensure you make an informed decision that is best for your individual needs. Also, ensure your family history of both conditions is taken into consideration before making a decision.

Hope you found this article helpful in untangling the association between attention deficit disorder and restless leg syndrome.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions on the topic or any of our massage tools for recovery.

Reading next

restless leg syndrome after knee replacement
Sciatica vs restless leg syndrome