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Difference between PLMD and RLS

Difference between PLMD and RLS

When it comes to restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movements during sleep (PLMD), there are many misconceptions about the two conditions. Some people mistakenly believe that PLMD is a milder form of RLS, while others think that PLMD is a completely different condition altogether. In reality, PLMD and RLS are caused by the same underlying problem and can have very similar symptoms.

What is PLMD?

PLMD (periodic limb movement disorder) is a common sleep-related movement disorder that causes irregular and repetitive movements of the arms, legs, and body during sleep. PLMD can often disrupt normal sleep patterns and lead to significant daytime fatigue for those afflicted with the disorder.

  • PLMD is a neurological condition characterized by involuntary muscular twitches or jerks and typically occurs every 20 to 40 seconds during periods of non-REM sleep.
  • PLMD is fairly prevalent in adults over the age of 65, however, the cause of PLMD remains largely unknown, although it is suspected to be linked to abnormalities in certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
  • PLMD generally does not cause any physical harm, but for many individuals who suffer from PLMD, the constant disruption of their normal sleep patterns can take an immense toll on their health and well-being.

What is RLS?

RLS, or restless leg syndrome, is a neurological disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but it is thought to be related to an imbalance of the brain’s chemical dopamine.

  • RLS is often associated with other conditions, such as pregnancy, iron deficiency, and certain medical conditions. Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen with time.
  • They are often worse at night or during periods of rest and can lead to insomnia. Treatment for RLS typically focuses on relieving symptoms and includes lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes surgery.
  • In severe cases, RLS can have a significant impact on quality of life. However, with proper treatment, most people with RLS are able to manage their symptoms and live relatively normal lives.

Difference between PLMD and RLS

  • Two similar but distinct conditions that can cause issues with sleep are periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) and restless leg syndrome (RLS). Both PLMD and RLS can cause a person to feel the urge to move their legs, which can make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult.
  • However, there are some key differences between the two conditions. PLMD is characterized by involuntary movements that occur during sleep, while RLS typically causes symptoms that are worse during periods of inactivity, such as when trying to fall asleep.
  • In addition, PLMD is often associated with other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, while RLS is not. Finally, PLMD typically does not cause pain, while RLS can be quite painful. As a result, it is important to be aware of these key differences when seeking treatment for either condition.


Although there is still much to learn about PLMD and RLS, it is clear that these conditions are very different. PLMD appears to be a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, while RLS may have a more complex etiology involving dopaminergic pathways. More research is needed in order to develop better treatments for both conditions.

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