Periodic limb movement disorder in children: A systematic review

International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group (IRLSSG)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This systematic review evaluates the scientific literature on pediatric periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), adhering to PRISMA guidelines and utilizing PICOS criteria. The search across PubMed, EMBASE, and Scopus yielded 331 articles, with 17 meeting inclusion criteria. Diagnostic criteria evolved, with polysomnography and PLMS index ≥5 required since 2003. Also, PLMD diagnosis mandates clinical consequences like insomnia, hypersomnia, and fatigue, excluding comorbidities causing sleep disruption. Prevalence in children is low (0.3%), emphasizing the need for meticulous investigation. Comorbidities, particularly the bidirectional relationship with ADHD, were explored. Challenges in diagnosis and understanding arise from overlapping conditions such as sleep disordered breathing, psychotropic medication, and criteria non-adherence. Despite generally good study quality, weaknesses include sample size justification and biases. The periodic leg movement index shows high sensitivity but low specificity, underscoring strict diagnostic criteria adherence. Diverse metrics for symptoms necessitate standardized approaches. Family history of RLS in children with PLMD suggests unexplored aspects. Treatment, mainly iron supplementation, lacks standardized assessment metrics. The review emphasizes diagnostic and treatment challenges, recommending unbiased studies with precise techniques. Comprehensive research, quantifying PLMS and objectively assessing sleep parameters, is crucial for advancing understanding in pediatric PLMD. Prospero registration number: CRD42021251406.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101935
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
StatePublished - Aug 2024


  • Children
  • Iron supplementation
  • Periodic leg movements during sleep
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Sleep disorder
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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