Foot Care

What Is the Cause Of Involuntary Movement Of Legs While Sleeping?

PLMD is an abbreviated form of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. PLMD is also known as nocturnal myoclonus, which means with the regular involuntary spasms in the muscles. This kind of disorder was first found in 1950’s and in the later 1970’s was found that it was the probable cause of insomnia. Often PLMD is mistaken for RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome). Â

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

PLMD affects the people only in sleep. In this condition there is a continuous movement of the toes and ankles. The movement can be shallow to wild and sometimes strenuous kicking. The legs and arms sometimes flail too. In some cases the abdomen, nasal and oral movement goes along with PLMD. This occurs for 0.5 to 10 secs. The intervals may vary between 5 to 90 secs.

One can diagnose them by observing and repetitive, unconscious movement at night while sleeping. The limbs move in deep stages of sleep and often lead to arousal. It results in poor sleep and may effect the daytime resulting in heavy sleepiness. It is observed that with increase in age the frequency also increases. Statistics revels that 5% of people of the age 30-50 suffer while almost 44% of 65+ people suffer from it. It has been observed that 12 .5 of people suffering from insomnia also suffer from PLMD.


People suffering from PLMD complain of excessive sleep during the day or with insomnia. The movements of limbs may be so wild and severe that the individual may stay awake for a long time. Others may not be aware that they are suffering from PLMD as they might not wake up during the night but at the same time may suffer from excessive sleepiness during the day. The frequency also depends on the severity of the movement. In some cases people with healthy sleep patterns also suffer from it.


The cause of PLMD is still unknown. But it is true that it results in insomnia and other sleep disturbances. But researches have shown that it is associated with other conditions of the spinal cord, diabetic mellitus, renal failure, peripheral neuropathies, amyloidosis, anemia, deficiency of vitamins, leukemia, kidney related problems and lung disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc. In some cases medications may also results in PLMD that have lithium and antidepressants in them. In other cases withdrawal of medications also attributes to PLMD.


The partner sleeping with the person may observe the movements of the limbs. It could be diagnosed with the help of a sleep technician with a polysomnogram. This polysomnogram records the sleep patterns and is governed by the bioelectrical processes.


PLMD could be treated by the use of narcotic drugs, benzodiazepines and Parkinson’s drugs. By the use of these drugs the disorder gradually reduces away. But there is no permanent cure for PLMD. But the medicines results in drowsiness and sedation. Other side effects are sweating, dizziness, nauseas and vomiting.

1 response to What Is the Cause Of Involuntary Movement Of Legs While Sleeping?

  1. i move around in my sleep but i don’t think i have PMLD. my family has told me i move around while i sleep, but I’m not tired duning the da. Please reply back i need help.

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