Periodic Limb Movement

What is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder?

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) are repetitive limb movements, usually in the lower extremities (legs), that occur during sleep and can sometimes interrupt sleep. Some people are not aware that they are having these limb movements as they can happen in light sleep phases.

Signs and Symptoms of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

The limb movements, while usually in the lower extremities, can also occur in the upper extremities in certain cases. The movements can be described as a muscle twitching or jerking. The limb movements happen between 15 to 60 seconds of each other and can vary from night to night. Most of the time the person experiencing the limb movements does not know they are happening and are reported by a spouse or loved one.


Periodic Limb Movement Disorder is often associated with other sleep disorders such as Insomnia and Restless Legs Syndrome. The daytime feelings of fatigue and sleepiness or being kept up at night by being awakened are all factors that are self-reported that may lead to a diagnosis. True PLMD by itself is rare as it usually overlaps with other sleep disorders or is an indicator of another problem, such as a deficiency.


The exact cause of PLMD is not known and has been studied less than many other sleep disorders. The nervous system is thought to play a part in these movements.


It is not possible to prevent PLMD but there are some factors that can help promote healthy sleep habits.

  • Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine at night.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Nap at the same time each day for short periods to reduce daytime sleepiness.
  • Sleep/Wake at the same time each night/day to set your internal clock.


Periodic Limb Movement Disorder can be chronic and while it cannot be cured, its symptoms can be managed with treatment and normal daily activities can continue for most people.

Treatment and Recovery

There are several medications that can help lessen the limb movements that can disrupt sleep. Treating other sleep disorders as well may lessen the number of limb movements over time.

Appointments can be made to speak with any of our physicians by calling the sleep center, however you may need a referral to have a study or other tests performed, which can be obtained from your primary care physician.

Learn More About Periodic Limb Movement Disorder from Baptist Health

Periodic limb movement disorder can be conquered. Start by scheduling an appointment with a Baptist Health primary care or sleep specialist today. 

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